Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Marcello Di Bonito

  • Credits 4

  • SSD AGR/14

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Planning and management of agro-territorial, forest and landscape (cod. 8532)

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

• Understand and use the methodological components and procedures of soil information systems to identify landscape units and soil sampling methods, and to define pedological units;

• Draw up maps of the soils for various applications (i.e., maps derived for zoning, terroir, vulnerability, etc.) from some Italian (or international) pedo-environments;

• Evaluate the application of specialized geopedological methods in the simulation of territorial scenarios.

Course contents


Students accessing this course must have a good preparation in the fundamentals of pedology and the basic notions of soil (bio) chemistry. Students will also need to have a good understanding of the main climatic, biotic (e.g., humification, nutrient cycle) and abiotic (e.g., lithology, relief) factors that influence ecosystems and the development of 'pedo-diversity'.

Practical content of the teaching unit (total teaching unit 24 hours)

  1. Introduction to the structures that operate at international level for the study, knowledge and dissemination of the soil resource, availability of soil information in regional, national and international databases (e.g., ISRIC, FAO, GloSIS, etc.).
  2. Introduction to GIS techniques (QGIS, SAGA and elements of R) for the study of soil characteristics and construction of a zoning and terroir, digital mapping of soil properties, Land Capability and Land concept Suitability, Land capability classification for forestry.
  3. Introduction to the use of remote and proximal sensing data and images (e.g., multi- and hyperspectral data, VIS-NIR-SWIR) for the interpretation of soil characteristics.

Contents of the laboratory teaching unit (total 16 hours):

Data will be distributed to resume cartography fundamentals and build various types of case studies in a GIS environment:

  1. Use of GIS technology and modelling to measure soil degradation, with examples on soils and climatic environments of various types.
  2. Introduction to hydropedology and terrain analysis tools applied to soil erosion and geomorphology analyses.
  3. Concepts of geostatistics and pedometrics in SAGA environment, and introduction to R packages and SoLIM environmenst.
  4. Introduction to concepts of Pedotransfer function and modelling.


The use of material distributed by the teacher made available online on the University repository (Insegnamenti OnLine) and lecture notes will be fundamental.

Consultation of the following texts is recommended for further information on the topics covered in class:

  1. Schaetzl, R.J., and Thompson, M.L. (2016). Soils: Genesis and Geomorphology. Cambridge University Press.
  2. Weil, R.R., and Brady, N.C. (2017). The Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson.
  3. McBratney, A.B., Minasny, B., and Stockmann, U. (eds.) (2018). Pedometrics. Springer.
  4. Zhang, G.L., Brus, D., Liu, F., Song, X.D., and Lagacherie, P., (2014). Digital Soil Mapping Across Paradigms, Scales and Boundaries. Springer.
  5. Soil Geographic Databases: https://www.isric.org/explore/soil-geographic-databases

Teaching methods

The course uses theory lessons integrated with GIS laboratories for pedological applications. The GIS laboratory explores tools for the construction of maps of the landscape units, the creation of databases of the pedological and chemical-physical characteristics of the profiles, the construction of the soil map and the related legend. The laboratories will make use of data and case studies with various applications and purposes.

Students will need to have a good understanding and use of English since part of the teaching material used will be provided in that language.

Assessment methods

Learning will be assessed through a combination of:

  1. A technical report;
  2. A written exam.

Students will explore a series of scenarios to which they will have to apply adequate diagnostic tools. On one or more of these scenarios, questions will be formulated on which to build a technical report of geopedological assessment in a GIS environment. This report (delivered in written form) will present the discussion of the suggested solutions with the development of adequate maps and quantitative evaluations. The final evaluation is expressed out of thirty points after the written exam which, in addition to highlighting the skills acquired, will also consider the results achieved in the drafting of the technical report.

Teaching tools

During the course, personal computers (or laptops), video projectors, digital presentations (in Power-point or alternative environment), online communication and collaboration platforms (e.g., Teams, Zoom, etc.), online learning platforms (e.g., Kahoot, MS Forms, etc.), didactic material for reading and exercises with instructions for laboratory activities, and various internet sites for the use of soil data.

Office hours

See the website of Marcello Di Bonito