Concept of soil quality
The concept of soil quality has been developed to help quantify factors that affect the ability of soil to function effectively in a variety of roles. The primary measures of this effectiveness are enhanced biological productivity, environmental quality, and human and animal health. Rapid population growth has demanded an increased emphasis on enhancing biological productivity, but if soil quality is to be improved, we must simultaneously achieve the other two goals as well.
The ongoing degradation of natural resources (erosion, salinization, contamination of ground and surface waters) is closely associated with a loss of soil quality. The concept of soil quality is defined as “the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation” (Karlen et al. 1997). This definition provides a focal point for assessing the intensity of soil degradation. Soils have various levels of quality that are defined by stable features related to soil forming factors and dynamic changes induced by soil management.