ISRIC - World Soil Information is an independent, science-based foundation. The institute was founded in 1966 following a recommendation of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS) and a resolution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). ISRIC has a mission to serve the international community with information about the world’s soil resources to help addressing major global issues.
ISRIC is the ICSU World Data Centre for Soils (WDC-Soils) since 1989, a member of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and collaborates with a wide range of partners worldwide.
ISRIC operates in three priority areas:
soil data and soil mapping
application of soil data in global development issues
training and education
From International Soil Museum to ISRIC - World Soil Information
When the FAO and UNESCO decided to prepare a Soil Map of the World in 1961, it was immediately clear that a World Soil Museum had to be established also. This new soil map should be based on an agreed soil classification: for instance, Cryosols for permanently frozen soils, Histosols for soils having deep organic horizons, or Gypsisols having a horizon with over 15 percent gypsum. But what do these Cryosols, Histosols and Gypsisols look like in reality? And does a Cryosol sample from Russia differ from a Cryosol sample from the United States? In a World Soil Museum, students and scientists would be able to learn from these different types of soils from around the world. In addition, the museum could act as an international reference centre for soil data.
The Dutch Government, convinced of the importance of this unique project, provided funding for the new museum. First housed in the University of Utrecht, in 1977 the museum moved to accommodations in Wageningen.
The International Soil Museum was renamed International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC) and is now known as ISRIC – World Soil Information. Forty-five years on, we developed a collaborative agreement with Wageningen University and Research Centre and have broadened our services.
Data supply and co-developing uniform tools for collecting and analysing soil related data. From the start ISRIC has collected, interpreted, collated and up-scaled soil data from different countries to a regional or global scale, and developed standardized tools to do so. Our data policy is built around the concepts of full and open access, and of data sharing being provided at no cost or for no more than the cost of reproduction.
Applied research. ISRIC supports interdisciplinary and participatory projects that address global issues including combatting land degradation, mitigating climate, improving food security and using water more efficiently.
Training. ISRIC researchers support people doing research on land and water resources with training and practical field work. We provide training for different users of soil data including students in soil science, agronomists, land planners and agricultural extension workers.
Education about soils through our World Soil Museum. ISRIC has the most extensive collections of soil samples from around the world. We can tell many stories about soils and their role in food security, climate change, water shortage and biodiversity. All stories can be illustrated by profiles, maps, pictures, micro slides, digital means or other attributes.
Access to a library and map collection. At ISRIC soil maps and articles from around the world can be stored, scanned and made accessible. We have already built up a collection of more than 30,000 articles, country reports, books and soil maps, with emphasis on the developing countries. These materials are being used to generate a range of databases and derived interpretations.
ISRIC’s intentions for the coming years are to:
Expand its data holdings, enhance internet-based access to its freely available data sources, and develop advanced methodologies for digital soil mapping.
Expand its efforts in collaborative projects on land and water resources for global development issues.
Strengthen its role as advocator of the importance of soils through new storage facilities for soil samples and a modernized World Soil Museum.
To realize these goals, ISRIC’s staff is developing its expertise towards the use and development of new methods and techniques.
What exactly is the use of a soil museum? Jantiene Baartman can give you an enthusiastic answer to that question as she became a soil scientist because of the soil museum. Jantiene was one of the speakers during the opening of the World Soil Museum.
Wouter Verhey, Policy Coordinator, Ministry of Economic Affairs of The Netherlands, presented SoilGrids1km, a new system for producing updatable soil property and class maps for the entire world, developed by the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC).