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Building on our knowledge of the earth's soils

For the layman, soil is just soil. But for Claire Guenat, a pedologist and researcher at EPFL’s Laboratory of Ecological Systems (ECOS), it is a subject worthy of a 576-page book. The work is entitled “Sols et paysages. Types de sols, fonctions et usages en Europe moyenne” (“Soils and landscapes: soil types, functions and uses in Central Europe”). Written over five years in partnership with pedologist and biologist Jean-Michel Gobat, an honorary professor at the University of Neuchâtel, this 2.5 kg tome was published in 2019 by Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes (PPUR). The book summarizes the scientific research and will be of interest to pedologists, biologists, geographers, forestry specialists, town planners and nature-lovers alike.

The soils analyzed in the book are located in familiar landscapes, from the plateau to the mountains. As regards Western Switzerland, it looks at 54 soil types, providing insight into the huge variety that exists in the ground on which we walk every day. The book also shows us that Western Switzerland alone plays host to 44% of the world’s soil types and two thirds of Europe’s soil types and that each soil type must benefit from specific conservation measures to fully fulfil its ecosystem functions and services.