Perspectives on utilitarian ethnopedology

Pavel V. Krasilnikov, Joe A. Tabor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Folk taxonomies can provide a common language, establish value, and assure quality of soil investigations for scientists, extension agents, and development workers. Vernacular soil names have been used throughout history and helped provide the basis of scientific classification. The Chinese were classifying soils 4000 years ago for tax assessment. Dokuchaev and others used vernacular soils like chernozem, solonetz, and gley as central concepts for their scientific soil classification. Scientific systems and detailed soil mapping are replacing folk taxonomies, especially in the more developed countries, because folk systems, if they still exist, are only locally valid and have relatively limited uses compared to scientific systems. In spite of these limitations folk taxonomies can still provide information that is useful for understanding landscape structure, function, and change, especially in developing countries with limited resources for research. Opportunities for using folk taxonomies to improve scientific soil classification, mapping, and environmental impact monitoring are not being exploited. These systems are disappearing; the last two centuries have seen rapid loss of this potentially useful information. The disconnection between folk and scientific soil classification and the resulting land management decisions that occur have wasted resources and caused severe economic hardship on communities. Examples from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas are provided, especially the Senegal River Valley, United States, and Saudi Arabia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2003


  • Ethnoscience
  • Geospatial
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Landscape ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Perspectives on utilitarian ethnopedology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this