Global Soil Information Facilities (GSIF)

Landmask available via the GSIF package for R and GSIF components.

GSIF (Global Soil Information Facilities) is ISRIC's framework for production of open soil data. It has been inspired by global environmental data initiatives such as Global Biodiversity Information Facilities, Global Land Cover mapping, OneGeology and similar. The main practical reason for GSIF is to build cyber-infrastructure to collate legacy (i.e., historic) soil data currently under threat of being lost forever.

Seven key principles explain the design of GSIF:

  • Data collection in GSIF is based on crowd-sourcing - everyone collecting soil data or working with soil information is invited to contribute to some of the databases via data portals and to GSIF tools via GSIF software development portals. As such, GSIF follows the Wikipedia approach to building information systems.
  • Data entered through GSIF data portals remain the property of the original contributors (copyright holders and/or authors). The original contributors have live access to their entries and full read/write rights.
  • GSIF is mainly based on Free and Open Source Software (Linux, PHP, LaTeX, R, GDAL, GRASS, SAGA GIS, PostgreSQL, PostGIS, Python, Google Earth and similar), but other software packages may also be used.
  • GSIF has been designed to serve global soil mapping initiatives and not local, isolated (regional and national) projects. Internationally accepted standards (International System of Units, international soil classifications systems, FAO soil field description guides, World Geodetic System 1984, and similar) are recommended. National and local datasets in different languages, are also supported, which requires further harmonization.
  • GSIF is based on automated procedures for mapping, pattern recognition and report/plots generation. All maps and reports produced as a part of GSIF are reproducible, i.e. they are based on compilable scripts that contain all processing steps. Derived maps can be updated by re-running the scripts with no or little human intervention when new data sets become available.
  • All shared soil data used to generate maps will be made available in near real-time in accordance with the ISRIC Data Policy.
  • GSIF data processing services and databases (maps and reports), produced as a part of GSIF, will constantly be adjusted based on usage statistics and web-traffic. Complexity (statistical data processing steps, coordinate systems, scale, uncertainty in the maps) is either hidden from the users or communicated using efficient solutions. This is the Google approach to indexing and browsing geo-data.

In conjunction with these developments, a training programme has been rolled out, with specific focus on selected developing countries, to build a user network to stimulate use of the facilities, obtain feedback for improvements and further develop GSIF components through collaboration.

GSIF comprises a number of components that are interconnected, but can be considered to be independent projects:

ii. World Soil Profile data ;

iii. WorldGrids geo-data service, comprising:

  • WorldGrids at 1 km (global coverage);
  • Continental scale soil covariate layers for production mapping (250 m and 100 m);
  • Global soil terrain units (membership maps with unique legend) at 1 km (planned also at 250 m and 100 m);

iv. R-packages: GSIF (automated analysis and mapping functionality) and plotKML (visualization of soil field data and output maps);

v. SoilGrids: a collection of global soil property and class maps produced at coarser resolutions (1 km, 500 m, 250 m); 

vi. SoilInfo App - Website and a smart phone App to access all GSIF produced data from mobile devices (expected in early 2014).

The desing and functionality of the GSIF components is explained in detail in the GSIF manual (book explaining all functionality with show cases; expected in mid 2014). Also refer to the links indicated above for more details.

The main users of GSIF will potentially be various international agencies and initiatives such as GlobalSoilMap and other international agricultural development and research organizations such as FAO, CIAT, USAID, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank. We also aim at National Environmental Agencies, Soil Survey agencies, private entities,  soil surveyors, soil scientists, farmers, agriculture engineers and other interested parties.

Databases and shared products derived from GSIF will be made available to the international community through the WDC-Soils, a regular member of the ICSU World Data System (WDS). As a 'Participating Organization' in the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the WDS will contribute its Members’ key multidisciplinary, quality-assessed scientific datasets to the GEO System of Systems (GEOSS).

Contact person: Tom Hengl