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This paper discusses some of the differences between geologic mapping and soil mapping, and how the resultant maps are interpreted. The role of spatial variability in geologic mapping is addressed only indirectly because in geologic mapping there have been few attempts at quantification of spatial differences. This is largely because geologic maps deal with temporal as well as spatial variability and consider time, age, and origin, as well as composition and geometry. Both soil scientists and geologists use spatial variability to delineate mappable units; however, the classification systems from which these mappable units are defined differ greatly. Mappable soil units are derived from systematic, well-defined, highly structured sets of taxonomic criteria; whereas mappable geologic units are based on a more arbitrary heirarchy of categories that integrate many features without strict values or definitions. Soil taxonomy is a sorting tool used to reduce heterogeneity between soil units. Thus at the series level, soils in any one series are relatively homogeneous because their range of properties is small and well-defined. Soil maps show the distribution of soils on the land surface. Within a map area, soils, which are often less than 2 m thick, show a direct correlation to topography and to active surface processes as well as to parent material.
Additional Publication Details
One perspective on spatial variability in geologic mapping