Concepts

The pedosphere is the soil mantle of the Earth. This concept evolved from the basic scientific concept of soils as specific bodies in nature that developed in time and space in situ at the land surface due to processes resulting from long-term interactions of soil-forming factors. These factors are the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and the landforms or relief of local terrain.

This basic concept of soils was described by V. V. Dokuchaev in the nineteenth century and has generally been accepted worldwide. Humans as components of the biosphere have increasingly become a significant factor interacting with the other spheres; consequently, the anthroposphere (realm of human society) is now considered to be a major influence. A comprehensive definition of a soil using a system approach indicates that 'a soil is a complex, open, bio-abiotic, nonlinear, multifunctional, multiphased, vertically and horizontally anisotropic structural system formed in situ within the surficial part of the land lithosphere'.

Soils cover much of the Earth's land surface and the bottom of shallow waters as part of a continuum or mantle. This continuum called the pedosphere (from Greek pedon meaning ground) serves as the Earth's biogeomembrane, which is somewhat analogous to biomembranes of living organisms. As a biogeomembrane, the pedosphere facilitates and regulates the exchange of substances and fluxes of energy among the land biota, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Additions, translocations, transformations, and removals occur in the soils of the pedosphere depending on the interplay of local environmental conditions and the inherent properties within the soil bodies (Figure 1). Paleosols are found in early geologic periods, and it is expected that in Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras some extinct types of soils and pedogenic processes could be found. Emphasis has more commonly been given to the major climatic and geomorphic effects on the pedosphere that existed during the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. Currently, pedogenic properties and functions influenced

Energy Biocycling Water exchange exchange

Depositions ge exc ge exc

Lateral gains

Intrasolum translocations and transformations

Lateral losses

Weathering Leaching

Erosion

Intrasolum translocations and transformations

Lateral losses

Weathering Leaching

Figure 1 Generalized processes active in developing soil features and horizons. Adapted from Certina G and Scalenghe R (eds.) (2006) Soils: Basic Concepts and Future Challenges, fig. 2.1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

by extensive exploitation of soils by humans during the last two centuries (the Anthropocene) are receiving more attention.

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