The National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Web Soil Survey is a user friendly website built to rapidly disseminate soil survey information through an interactive map. Users will find this the fastest and easiest way to gather information on local soils. Web Soil Survey is useful for land owners, land managers and project managers who need a general understanding of what soils and ecological sites are present in areas they are working within.
Web Soil Survey provides a helpful interactive map that allows users to find soil information on specific areas. Locations that the user is interested in can be specified by using the Area of Interest (AOI) tool, which can be found in the tool bar above the map. The maximum AOI that can be created is 100,000 Acres. If data is needed for an area larger than that, a second AOI must be created in a separate session.
Data is available for most of the counties in the lower 48, plus Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, The Republic of Palau, The Republic of the Marshall Islands, American Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia. Much of Alaska’s counties have no data or incomplete data, but there are some counties represented within Web Soil Survey. A map of available data by counties is shown in figure 2.
Once an AOI has been specified, users can select the Soil Data Explorer tab and find relevant information on the soils, ratings and general limitations on different land uses and Ecological Site Descriptions (Figure 3). The site also provides information about soil characteristics through interactive menus which provide background into the data represented. If the soils data needs to be presented in a report, there is a tool to organize the desired information that you want into PDF format. This report includes at default a short summary of Web Soil Survey and how the data is assembled, a map of the Area of Interest (AOI) and a description of the soils present. On top of this basic report there can be many appendences can be defined based in the intent of the report.
Data can also be exported through the download soils data tab. The available data is delivered as a shape file and as a Microsoft database file (.mdb). To retrieve the data, a link needs to be created by clicking on one of the two create download links. After a short processing period is finished, follow the fresh link at the bottom of the ‘Your AOI’ menu.
All the data collected within the USDA Web Soil Survey is pulled from the SSURGO and SSURGO2 general soil databases. The data gathered for these two databases are the result of over 100 years of soil sampling across the United States and more is added every day. Large parts of the western states remain unmapped but note that the 'no data counties' within Figure 3 are incomplete but not entirely empty. If you are unsure if your AOI is covered, Web Soil Survey will notify you when you define your AOI.
Figure 1: NRCS Web Soil Survey website interface Web Soil Survey
Figure 2: An example AOI highlighting Ecological Site Descriptions Web Soil Survey
Figure 3: Web Soil Survey Data Availability Available SSURGO Data
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