'International' soil standards

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Providing information on the soils of the world is an enormous task and continuing challenge for  ISRIC — World Soil information. ISRIC collects, standardises, harmonises and publishes global soil geographic information, whereas many national, regional, local and NGO organizations provide soil information specific to their area and according to their procedures and standards. This page is to evolve towards a comprehensive catalogue of ‘international’ standards in the soil domain.

You are welcome to suggest other sources for consideration on this  evolving page using the e-mail button at the bottom of this page.


Index: Overviews | Collection Management Plans | Soil glossaries | Soil description and sampling | Soil classification | Laboratory methods | Data quality | Standardisation/harmonisation of disparate soildata | Digital soil mapping | Spatial data specifications | Soil data interoperability | Soil-related vocabularies | Soil proximal sensing | OGC standards | Soil-related ISO standards | FAIR guiding principles |


  • 'Overview of international and de facto standards in use at ISRIC -  World Soil Information'; covers all life stages from data acquisition to provision (ver. 2022). This report supercedes ver. 2017 and earlier. Click here
  • ‘Overview of data standards for soil- and agricultural research’ (ver. 2019), a detailed overview compiled by the German BONARES programme. Click here


Collection Management Plans

  • Collection Management Plans, UK Collection Trust: provides basic information about what a full 'Collections Management Frameworks' contains. Click Sheet 1, Sheet 2, Sheet 3
  • SPECTRUM. The UK collection management standard that is also used around the world (see latest version, Spectrum 5.0).
  • American Museum Alliance. This guide aims to help museums develop a collections management policy, a core document supporting a museum's mission and purpose. Click here
  • Example of collection management policy or the ISRIC World Soil Reference Collection. Click here.


Soil glossaries

  • Glossary of soil science terms, compiled by SSSA. Click here.

  • Glossary of soil terms, compiled by ESDB. Click here.

  • Soil4Teachers glossary. Click here.

  • Glossary, Soils of Canada. Click here.

  • Glossary of terms used in soil and landscape science (NSW, Australia). Click here.

  • Glossaire de pédologie, (M.C. Giraud, AgroTechParis). Click here


Soil description and sampling

  • Guidelines for soil description, FAO (4th. ed., 2006). Click here
  • Field guide accompanying WRB-2022. Click here.
  • Field book for describing and sampling soils, NRCS-USDA (ver. 3.0, 2012). Click here.
  • National soil survey handbook, NRCS-USDA (Nov. 2019). Click here 
  • Manual for describing soils in the field, Canada (rev. 2007). Click here.
  • ICP Forests monitoring manual (Part X). Click here.
  • ESDAC Soil sampling protocol. Click here
  • Basic guidelines on how to produce a soil sample for proficiency testing (GLOSOLAN, 2020). Click here

      Note: Protocols vary with the purpose and focus on properties.



Soil classification

  • World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB):
    • WRB 2022. Click here.
    • WRB 2014, update 2015. Click here.
    • WRB 2006. Click here.
    • WRB 1998. Click here.
    • FAO-Unesco Soil Map of the World (SMW)
      • Revised Legend, 1997. Click here
      • Legend, 1974. Click here
    • USDA Soil Taxonomy (USDA-NRCS)
      • Keys 13th ed., 2022. Click here.
      • Soil Taxonomy 2nd edition (1999). Click here.
    • Overview of national systems (compiled by FAO). Click here.


    Laboratory methods

    • Soil survey field and laboratory methods manual (ver. 2.0, 2014), NRCS-USDA. Click here.
    • Kellogs soil survey laboratory methods manual (ver. 5.0, 2014), NSSC-USDA. Click here.
    • Procedures for soil analysis (sixth ed.), ISRIC. Click here|
    • Good practices on purchasing and operating laboratory equipment (GLOSOLAN, 2020). Click here.
    • Standard operating procedures (SOPs), or step-by-step instructions on how to perform laboratory analyses, as developed by GLOSOSLAN. Click here 
    • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) soil-related standards. Click here (see also bottom of this page)
    • GSP global assessment on soil laboratories capacities and needs. Click here.

    Data quality

    • Guidelines for Quality Management in Soil and Plant Laboratories, ISRIC and FAO. Click here.

    • EURACHEM, a network of organisations in Europe having the objective of establishing a system for the international traceability of chemical measurements and the promotion of good quality practice. Click here.

    • WEPAL, a world-leading organiser of proficiency testing (PT) programs including soils. Click here

    • GLOSOLAN (Global Soil Laboratory Network) facilitates networking and capacity development through cooperation and information sharing between soil laboratories with different levels of expertise. Click here.


    Standardisation/harmonisation of disparate soil data

    • 'Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources', providing mechanisms for the collation, analysis and exchange of consistent and comparable global soil data and information (GSP Pillar 4). Click here and here.

    • World Soil Information Service (WoSIS), towards the standardisation and harmonisation of world soil data. Click here and here.

    • 'Harmonised soil property values for broad scale modelling' (ISRIC-WISE harmonised soil profile data). Click here and here.

    • 'Harmonised world soil database' (FAO/ IIASA/ ISRIC/ ISSCAS /JRC). Click here.

    Digital soil mapping

    • Global SoilMap specifications:  Sets out the specifications for GlobalSoilMap project data products (Tiers 1 to 4); GlobalSoilMap will include prediction of soil properties at fine spatial resolution (~100 m). The Specifications do not prescribe how the products must be made; only what they need to conform to in order to permit global collation and presentation of consistent standardized data. Click here
    • Soil Grids, global gridded soil information derived from digital soil mapping. Click here and here.
    • Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) is the creation and the population of a geographically referenced soil database, generated at a given resolution by using field and laboratory observation methods coupled with environmental data through quantitative relationships. IUSS DSW Working Group, click here.


    Spatial data specifications

    • INSPIRE data specification for the spatial data theme soil. The INSPIRE Directive aims to create a European Union spatial data infrastructure for the purposes of EU environmental policies and policies or activities which may have an impact on the environment. This European Spatial Data Infrastructure will enable the sharing of environmental spatial information among public sector organisations, facilitate public access to spatial information across Europe and assist in policy-making across boundaries. Click here.
    • GS SOIL best practice network, promoting access to European, interoperable and INSPIRE compliant soil Information. Click here
    • OGC, the Open Geospatial Consortium, is an international consortium driven to make geospatial (location) information and services FAIR - Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Click here.
    • A Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management (ISO, OGC and IHOO). Click here 

    Soil data interoperability

    • OGC Soil data interoperability experiment (IE): This IE evaluated existing models for soil data exchange and proposed a common core model, including a GML/XML schema, which was tested through the deployment of OGC web services and demonstration clients. IE time constraints and limited participant resources precluded extensive modelling activities. However, the resulting model should form the core of a more comprehensive model to be developed by an OGC Soil Data Standards Working Group in collaboration with other parties, including the IUSS working group on Soil Information Standards (WGSIS), the Soil Data working group of GODAN, and Pillar 5 of the Global Soil Partnership.
    • Soil Data Working Group, GODAN, aims to ensure that a significant stakeholder group will be involved in the current development process (GSP, ISO, OGC), so that a truly global exchange standard can be developed and agreed.  Click here.
    • 'Open standards for data' (ODI, 2018). Click here.

    Soil-related vocabularies

    • AGROVOC, a controlled vocabulary covering all areas of interest of the FAO including food, nutrition, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, environment etc. Click here.
    • Multilingual soil-specific thesaurus (Soil Vocabulary), AgInfra. Click here.

    Soil proximal sensing

    • Tools for proximal soil sensing, USDA-NRCS. Click here.

    • IUSS Working Group on Proximal Sensing. Click here.

    • Towards global harmonization of Spectroscopy and ISO certification (GLOSOLAN Spectroscopy Working Group)

    • Global soil spectroscopy assessment by FAO and ISRIC (GSP). Click here

    OGC standards and supporting documents

    • OGC® Standards and Supporting Documents. Click here.

    International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

    Note that all ISO reports come at a cost:

    • ISO 19168-1:2020: Geographic information — Geospatial API for features — Part 1: Core. This document specifies the behaviour of Web APIs that provide access to features in a dataset in a manner independent of the underlying data store. This document defines discovery and query operations. Click here
    • ISO 19115-1:2014:  Geographic information – Metadata.  An internationally-adopted schema for describing geographic information and services. It provides information about the identification, the extent, the quality, the spatial and temporal schema, spatial reference, and distribution of digital geographic data. Click here
    • ISO 19119:2016:  Geographic information services.  Defines requirements for how platform neutral and platform specific specification of services shall be created, in order to allow for one service to be specified independently of one or more underlying distributed computing platforms. Click here
    • ISO/TS 19139-1:2019: Defines XML-based encoding rules for conceptual schemas specifying types that describe geographic resources. The encoding rules support the UML profile as used in the UML models commonly used in the standards developed by ISO/TC 211. The encoding rules use XML schema for the output data structure schema. Click here

      > ISO standards related to Soil Quality (For full list click here):

    • ISO 11074, Soil Quality — Vocabulary. Click here 
    • ISO 25177, Soil Quality — Field soil description. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-101, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 101: Framework for the preparation and application of a sampling plan. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-102, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 102: Selection and application of sampling techniques. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-103, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 103: Safety. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-104, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 104: Strategies. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-106, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 106: Quality control and quality assurance. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-107, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 107: Recording and reporting. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-203, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 203: Investigation of potentially contaminated sites. Click here 
    • ISO 18400-205, Soil Quality — Sampling — Part 205: Guidance on the procedure for investigation of natural, near-natural and cultivated sites. Click here 
    • ISO 28258, Soil Quality — Digital exchange of soil-related data. Provides a standard for soil quality that includes a detailed domain model for soil observations, based on the Observations and Measurements  (O&M) standard issued by the OGC and ISO. Click here

    FAIR guiding principles

    • FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Click here
    • CoreTrustSeal Trustworthy Data Repositories Requirements. Click here
    • International Community Guidelines for Sharing and Reusing Quality Information of Individual Earth Science Datasets (FAIR-DQI community). Click here