Geology, soil and seismic risk

Organic carbon

Maps of soil organic carbon content in different layers and at different scales

carbon cycleSoil organic carbon constitutes about 58% of soil organic matter.

The organic matter is composed of a once living organisms as remains of plants and animals in various stages of decomposition, cells or tissues and substances produced or reworked by the roots of plants and microorganisms present in the soil.

In total absence of organic materials, as happens in the sandy desert, there is no soil but only a non- consolidated sediment. It’s therefore clear the importance of soil organic matter: in fact its presence is required to give meaning to the notion of soil.

The cycle of the organic matter is extremely complex because formed by a set of various more simple cycles. The most important is the carbon cycle where plants use solar energy and CO2 present in the atmosphere.

These functions are provided by soil organic matter:

  • source of energy for the soil microorganisms;

  • it preserves and provides nutrients needed for crop and micro-organisms growth;

  • it retains the nutrients thanks to its cation and anion exchange capacity;

  • it stabilizes and holds together the soil particles reducing erosion;

  • it improves the structure making it more granular and consequently porosity, bulk density and permeability are improved as well, by adjusting the shallow and deep water flows;

  • it reduces the negative effects of pesticides, heavy metals and many other pollutants on the environment.

 The organic matter, acting on soil structure, reduces the formation of crusts on the surface , increases the rate of water infiltration, reduces the superficial flow and facilitates the penetration of plant roots.

The ability to subtract organic carbon from the atmosphere has to be added to these functions. CO2 is fixed by the photosynthetic activity of the plants and, through the plant residues and the root exudates, it is accumulated in the soil in form of more or less humidified organic matter. Hence the recognition of the role of the soil in the carbon cycle by the international conventions on Desertification (Paris, 1994) and on climate change and biodiversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).

Soil organic matter performs many and important functions, so its decline is considered a threat and a soil degradation element, as indicated in the Communication from the European Commission "Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection” (COM/2006/0231).


Available Maps

The Geological, Seismic and Soil Survey has produced some maps describing the organic carbon content in regional soils in order to orient the management, protection and conservation policies. The following maps are available:

  • Percent organic carbon content in 0-30 and 0-100 cm layer (plain at 1:50k scale, hills and mountain at 1:250k scale). This parameter provides information on the status of soil fertility and influences many physical - chemical properties of soil. It is also a parameter used in simulation models (eg. estimation of the water balance);

  • Organic carbon stock in 0-30 cm layer and 0-100 cm layer (plain at 1:50k scale, hills and mountain at 1:250k scale). This parameter provides information on the amount of organic carbon and thus CO2 currently present in the soils of Emilia-Romagna region, from which we can estimate the storage capacity or potential loss of CO2 as a result of use changes or different agronomic management of soils;

  • Evaluation of Organic Matter content in 0-30 cm layer (plain at 1:50k scale). This parameter describes, in qualitative terms using 3 classes, the organic matter content as a function of soil texture. This type of assessment is used in the Guidelines for Integrated production of Emilia-Romagna region (DPI 2015) to orient the organic fertilization aiming to improve the quality of soil and its productive potential in respect of the environment. 

Web mapping

To query and download soil and thematic maps.

 Soil on Google Earth

  • Soils of Emilia-Romagna
    The website provides access to every soil map at scales from 1:1Mk to 1:50k and to all derived thematic maps in Google Earth. (
    Note: you must have Google Earth installed on your computer, visit Google to download Google Earth for free).

 An interactive WebGis site where it’s possible to view and query soil maps of Emilia-Romagna region. To view the website pop-up blocker has to be disabled.

  • Soil maps of Emilia-Romagna region
    The website provides access to 1:50k soil map (plain and hills), point data (heavy metal monitoring, extension service soil analyses, shallow water table measurement sites) and a selection of derived thematic maps. Historical maps, land use maps, geological maps and regional park maps are available as well. (Note: to view the website pop-up blocker has to be disabled).

 icona sito catalogo suoli

  • Soil Catalog of Emilia-Romagna
    The website provides access to 1:50k soil map (plain and hills) and point data (extension service soil analyses and shallow water table measurement sites). A selection of derived thematic maps is available as well. It’s possible to draw plots, to identify a soil type using a tool and to calculate the fertilization plan of your plots.

 Catalogue of geographic data

  • Geo-Catalalog
    You can query and download metadata and data in open data format (shapefiles, WMS, CSV and TXT tables).




Geological, Seismic and Soil Survey

Francesca Staffilani

Phone: 0039 051-5274442



Document Actions

last modified 2019-11-10T13:12:43+02:00
Is this page useful?

Rate this website

Looking for something else?