SoilGrids1km--global soil information based on automated mapping

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 29;9(8):e105992. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105992. eCollection 2014.


Background: Soils are widely recognized as a non-renewable natural resource and as biophysical carbon sinks. As such, there is a growing requirement for global soil information. Although several global soil information systems already exist, these tend to suffer from inconsistencies and limited spatial detail.

Methodology/principal findings: We present SoilGrids1km--a global 3D soil information system at 1 km resolution--containing spatial predictions for a selection of soil properties (at six standard depths): soil organic carbon (g kg-1), soil pH, sand, silt and clay fractions (%), bulk density (kg m-3), cation-exchange capacity (cmol+/kg), coarse fragments (%), soil organic carbon stock (t ha-1), depth to bedrock (cm), World Reference Base soil groups, and USDA Soil Taxonomy suborders. Our predictions are based on global spatial prediction models which we fitted, per soil variable, using a compilation of major international soil profile databases (ca. 110,000 soil profiles), and a selection of ca. 75 global environmental covariates representing soil forming factors. Results of regression modeling indicate that the most useful covariates for modeling soils at the global scale are climatic and biomass indices (based on MODIS images), lithology, and taxonomic mapping units derived from conventional soil survey (Harmonized World Soil Database). Prediction accuracies assessed using 5-fold cross-validation were between 23-51%.

Conclusions/significance: SoilGrids1km provide an initial set of examples of soil spatial data for input into global models at a resolution and consistency not previously available. Some of the main limitations of the current version of SoilGrids1km are: (1) weak relationships between soil properties/classes and explanatory variables due to scale mismatches, (2) difficulty to obtain covariates that capture soil forming factors, (3) low sampling density and spatial clustering of soil profile locations. However, as the SoilGrids system is highly automated and flexible, increasingly accurate predictions can be generated as new input data become available. SoilGrids1km are available for download via under a Creative Commons Non Commercial license.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Carbon Sequestration
  • Cations / analysis
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment
  • Geographic Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geography
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Logistic Models
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Soil / chemistry*


  • Cations
  • Soil
  • Carbon

Grant support

ISRIC is a non-profit organization primarily funded by the Dutch government. The authors are especially thankful for support from the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.