We are pleased to see the letter by Schimel and Chadwick (Front Ecol Environ 2013; 11: 405–06), highlighting the importance of soil characterization in ecological and biogeochemical research and explaining the value of soil taxonomy, and we agree with the authors that reporting soil
taxonomic classification would greatly increase the interpretive value of many studies. However, in our extensive work with land managers and scientists, we have found that taxonomic classifications are not
particularly useful because they are poorly understood. For those unfamiliar
with soil taxonomy, deconstructing the meaning of a classification
is not a simple task. Furthermore, because the US system of soil taxonomy is not applied universally, its utility as a means for effectively describing soil characteristics to readers in other countries is limited. Finally, and most importantly, even at the finest level of soil classification there are often large within-taxa variations in critical properties that can determine ecosystem responses to drivers such as climate and land-use change.