Estimating effective soil depth at regional scales: Legacy maps versus environmental covariates

Wentai Zhang, Guiqing Hu, Jiandong Sheng, David C. Weindorf, Hongqi Wu, Junwei Xuan, An Yan, Zhujun Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Soil depth reflects the quantity and ecosystem service functions of soil resources. However, there is no universal standard to measure soil depth at present, and digital soil mapping approaches for predicting soil depth at the regional scale remain immature. Using observation of soil profile morphology, we compared the soil depth nomenclatures from the World Reference Base for Soil Resources, Chinese Soil Taxonomy, and Soil Taxonomy. For this study, shallow soils were defined as those with an effective soil depth < 100 cm. Based on legacy data and field soil survey, the spatial distribution of shallow soils in Xinjiang, China, and the main controlling environmental factors were explored. Results showed that shallow soils in Xinjiang are mainly distributed in high altitude regions such as the Tian Mountains. At the regional scale, significant correlations were observed between soil depth and climate factors, as well as between soil depth and vegetation fractional coverage. Contrary to previous conclusions at small spatial scales, terrain attributes could not explain soil depth variation at the regional scale. This study addressed knowledge gaps on soil depth prediction at regional scales while elucidating climate-vegetation-soil coevolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-176
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • digital soil mapping
  • multiple linear regression
  • soil landscape coevolution
  • soil profile morphology
  • soil thickness


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