World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue

Welcome to WOSSAC

Sampler of materials in WOSSAC
WOSSAC mapchest

The WOSSAC archive contains a broad spectrum of soils and natural resource materials from around the world. These include items which are of historic importance; documents which still remain the only systematic survey records from many areas; and valuable laboratory data which provides time-referenced benchmarks. Below are some examples of these documents which provide an insight into the diversity of materials held within WOSSAC. The index numbers relate to the WOSSAC item coding system, and the thumbnail sketch indicates why these documents are conserved.

WALES: An example of legacy data


This collection of typed and hand-written soil reports for the Anglesey area is dated from between 1912 and 1935 and includes eighty-eight map sheets in total collected within a binder. The sheets are generally in good condition, can be clearly read, and show little sign of damage.

The map sheets contain information on the environment around the soil sampling site, including: soil reference number, locality, geological data, collectors identity (initials mainly), and dates of collection. Also presented are the data from the laboratory analysis of the soil samples for different soil horizons which includes both mechanical and chemical analysis results in considerable detail.

Contributors to the sheets are: Hughes, D.O., Prof. G.W. Robinson, Hugh. H. Hughes, and F. Strokdale.

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SOILS OF CEYLON: Historical Records

WOSSAC: ID24488 and ID36679

The archive includes two historically important texts prepared before independence and the county became Sri Lanka.

Joachim A.W.R. (1945), Progress in the study of soils of Ceylon: Agriculture and Forestry. Reprinted from the Journal of Ceylon Association of Science, Part III, October 1945.

This small, A5 sized booklet of 13 typed sheets contains a summary of surveys of Ceylon conducted prior to 1945. The paper covers the topics of soil classification and the suitability of areas for development and includes a discussion on crops suited to each soil type, and crop response. Included is a summary overview soil map of the island and a table of the soil groups and series with the associated observations on environment, geology, vegetation, and chemical analyses.

The document is generally in good condition and the print is still quite readable.

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The second volume, Ceylon Soils, by S.N. O. Fernando, 1967 is a compact hard backed A5 volume of 76 pages, which is in reasonably condition with some damage to the book spine. The text has introductory pages on soil processes; a chapter on soil descriptions; and a section of fertilizers. The most interesting part of the text is a discussion on zonal climates and the soil classification across the island including a useful one page table. The author, who was a forester, concludes with a section relating soils to vegetation zones in Sri Lanka.

THE SOILS OF CHINA: An Historical Record and Early Soil Classification.


Thorp, J. (1935), Geographic distribution of the important soils of China. Bulletin of the Geological Society of China. Vol. 14, No. 2. 160pp.

A booklet published in an academic journal in 1935, contains 160 typed sheets of soil type descriptions; an illustrated provisional soil map of China; and seven plates of black and white photos (sample sites and landscapes of interest with descriptions). This is a ‘classic’ publication as it affected the development of USDA classifications of subtropical soils.

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BRITISH SOILS: A Historical Snapshot


Agricultural Research Council (1950), Soil survey of Great Britain. Soil Survey Research Board, Report No. 1. 27pp. HMSO, London.

This booklet begins with a brief history of early British soil survey initiatives, by G.W. Robinson. There is also a brief review of the classification systems used by the Soil Survey of England and Wales, during the period 1946-1948; and the Soil Survey for Scotland, in the same period. A list of the survey staff working in 1948 is included. This first report of the Soil Survey Research Board sub-divides Britain into Regions and provides descriptions of the soil series encountered within each with a brief history into previous studies in the area. The volume is generally in good condition, but with damage to binding and a torn back cover.

ENGLAND: Rare Acid Sulphate Soils


Hodge, C.A.H. and Bloomfield, C.J., (1979), A survey of acidity in Wood Walton, Conington and Holme Fen, 1978-79. Unpublished.

This collection of 23 loose sheets typed and held in a folder, is an example of a detailed survey undertaken for a specific purpose. The survey was completed in May 1979 by a surveyor from the Soil Survey of England and Wales (C. Hodge). The purpose of the survey is described as a requirement provides an appropriate agricultural grading for the Wood Walton area. A research scientist (C. Bloomfield), based at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, contributes to this with work and includes a table of pH, sulphates and oxidisable suphide found at depths of up to 2.5 meters. Maps included show auger bore locations; hand-drawn maps of pH values and classes for the area at different soil depths; and a small scale map of the fields surveyed and their cropping areas.

UK: An Early National Map


Bridges, E.M., (c.1963), A Soil Map of Great Britain.

A 1:2,000,000 map of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, cut into tiles (perhaps for storage), with legend. Accompanying the map is a small booklet describing the map, and appears to be an early draft with hand written notes in the margin.

The map itself is not of good quality, having been coloured by hand, some place names are illegible and some rough corrections have been made to boundaries.

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ENGLAND: Early Detailed Soil Mapping-Map and notes for soil profiles in Silsoe area, Bedfordshire


Map and notes for soil profiles in Silsoe area, Bedfordshire.

Two sets of hand-written notes. The first set of notes, dated 6 August 1945, are titled ‘Bedforshire Profiles’ by an unknown author and comprise descriptions of four survey sites in the Wrest Park area. The second set of notes, dated 28-29 November 1946, are titled ‘Soil profiles in woodland near Woburn’, written by W.G.D. Walters, and comprises of woodland soil descriptions for two map sheets in Bedfordshire (24-SE and 24-NW).

The map, dated 16 July 1945 is of the Wrest Park estate in Bedfordshire showing labelled locations of 137 reported borings around the grounds, a legend to the labels and locations of soil profiles.

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Sudan: Natural Resources Evaluations

WOSSAC: ID530, ID2024 and ID2025

Ibrahim, F. N. (1984), Ecological Imbalances in the Republic of the Sudan-with Reference to Desertification in Darfur.

This document provides a snapshot of ecological conditions in this remote western region at a time when rainfall decline was making a marked impact. The 215 page, soft covered and perfect bound, A5 sized, report is accompanied by four coloured maps at a scale of 1:1 M, and contains numerous black and white photographs. The report is part of an academic series published in Bayreuth, Germany. The value of this document is the data provided for an ecologically fragile region already under stress, due to a decreasing rainfall regime.

Howell, M.A. (1954), Natural Resources and Potential Development in the Southern Provinces of the Sudan.

This interim report was completed in late 1954 in Khartoum and published in London the next year. There are two documents of foolscap sized and bound is black and red hard covers, with 262 pages for the report. The second volume contains a series of maps as page sized figures at a scale of 1:6 M, plus two fold out maps at a scale of 1:2M. All the maps are coloured. The contents of the report volume are divided into a thirty page summery followed by 27 brief technical appendices. The report contains valuable statistics from the 1950s and the value of this document is that it provides a rare historical survey of the new country of Southern Sudan. This large country is described within a framework of regions and areas with a comprehensive review of the potential of each. The numerous appendices range from the ecology to game resources.

These documents represent rare examples of early natural resource assessments for the new Southern Sudan nation and are valued documents within the archive.