Scheda Insegnamento: Monitoring soil quality A.A. 2017/2018
  • Codice: 17927
  • Crediti: 6
  • Anno Off. Formativa: 2017/2018
  • Anno di Corso: 1
  • Erogazione: I semestre


1. Introduction
Soil and its different definitions
Role and position of soils in terrestrial ecosystems. Concepts of chemical and biological fertility.

2. Indicators of soil quality and health
Concepts of soil quality, soil health and soil security. Rationale for the use of soil indicators and specific requisites. Physical, chemical and biological indicators. Static and dynamic descriptors. Main bioindicators: definitions and functions.

3. Soil organic matter (SOM)
Main features, composition, physical, chemical and biological properties.
SOM as a complex indicator of soil quality. Quantity and quality of SOM
Role of SOM to maintain soil fertility, to promote carbon storage and as the site of tight interactions with soil biota.
Pools of ecological relevance.

4. Soil microbial biomass
Definition, composition and main characteristics
Factors influencing microbial biomass development. Trophic conditions and adaptation strategies. Functions of soil microrganisms and their specific role within nutrient cycles.
How to study microbial biomass. Quantitative and qualitative approaches. FE method, SIR, multiSIR, CLPP techniques. Concepts of genetic and functional diversity. Microbial indexes: the microbial quotient, significance and measurement.

5. Soil biological activity
Mineralization processes
Significance of mineralization processes to guarantee soil fertility
C mineralization. Soil respiration and its components: definition and measurement.
Microbial indexes: the metabolic and the mineralization quotients: significance and measurement.
N mineralization. Mineralization potential and in situ measurements

6. Soil enzymes
Definitions and main features. Notes on enzyme kinetics: general infos. Localization and origin of soil enzymes. Classes of soil enzymes. Functions and stability of enzymes in soil. Immobilized enzymes .
Nutritional strategies. Endo and extracellular enzymes.
Determination of enzyme activities by means of different methods : colorimetric and fluorimetric techniques. Specific activities. Real and potential activity.
Microbial functional diversity
Significance and measurement. Use of enzyme activities and of CLPP techniques to assess functional diversity. Diversity indexes.

7. Drivers of global soils change:
Natural and anthropogenic pressures (climate changes, land use changes, pollution)
Threats to soil functions
Soil degradation, soil loss

8. How to plan a monitoring activity: choosing the right set of indicators, new indicators, experimental design.
How, when and where sample soils. Experimental design, sampling schemes. How to choose the right indicators. New sets of indicators.
Presentation of specific case studies in forest soils

Integrative seminars
To be defined

Laboratory classes and working groups
Determination of soil respiration
Determination of acid phosphatase activity

Reading and discussion of recent literature

Testi consigliati


1) Brady NC, Weil RR 2016 - The nature and properties of soils, XIV Ed., Prentice Hall (Chapt. 2, 12, 13, 21) or XIII Ed., (Chapt. 1-11-12-20)

2) FAO and ITPS. 2015.
Status of the World’s Soil Resources (SWSR) – Main Report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, Rome, Italy
(selected chapters)

3) NERI Technical Report No. 388 2002. Microorganisms as indicators of soil health, (provided in class)

4) European Commission - DG ENV, Report 2010. Soil biodiversity: functions, threats and tools for policy makers, (provided in class)


A basic knowledge of the fundamentals of soil science, biochemistry and microbiology will facilitate the learning process.



Metodologia didattica

Ore lezione: 44

Valutazione del profitto

Prova in itinere, prova orale

Descrizione dei metodi di accertamento

Evaluation criteria:
1) knowledge of course contents,
2) ability to integrate and critically discuss course contents,
3) skill in planning a monitoring activity starting from a case study,
4) level of clarity in exposition

Luogo lezioni

Orario lezioni


Sede di Viterbo
Lunedi 11.00 -13.00

Sede di Roma
Giovedi 11.30-13.30

Si prega comunque di prendere contatto per e-mail