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Richter, 2007


Humanity's transformation of Earth's soil: Pedology's new frontier

Richter, D. deB. (2007)
Soil Science 172 (12): 957-967  

Plain English Summary

Humanity’s alterations of the Earth’s soil is transforming pedology, the science of how natural processes formed the remarkable diversity of soils.  Humans need to be integrated into soil science to better support the management of the environment, ecosystems, and global change.


Pedology was born in the 18th and 19th centuries, when soil was first conceived as a natural body worthy of its own scientific investigation. For well over a century, pedology explored soil as a system developed from a complex of natural processes. By the mid-20th century, however, human activities began to affect substantial global soil changes with influence on the dynamics of the Earth’s environment. Such anthropedo- genesis was first defined as Bmetapedogenesis[ by Yaalon and Yaron (1966), a definition that we propose here to be as important to the development of pedology as the natural-body concept of soil first articulated by Dokuchaev and Hilgard more than a century ago.

In this article, we distinguish between humanity’s contemporary and historic influences on soil, as it is increasingly important for ecosystem analysis and management to distinguish contemporary changes that are overlain on those from the past. Although our understanding of global soil change is strikingly elementary, it is fundamental to establishing greater management control over Earth’s rapidly changing ecosystems. Humanity’s transformation of Earth’s soil challenges scientists to develop a pedology with broad purview and decades’ time scale, a pedology that supports the science and management of the environment, ecosystems, and global change.


Richter, D. deB. (2007): Humanity's transformation of Earth's soil: Pedology's new frontier. Soil Science 172 (12): 957-967. DOI: 10.1097/ss.0b013e3181586bb7