Soil quality, or soil health, has been defined as “the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation” (Karlen et al., 1997) or, more simply, the ability of a soil to perform functions that are essential to people and the environment (D. Karlen, personal communication, 2009). Whatever the specific definition, the goal is to manage soils so as to assure long-term productive and environmental sustainability. Soil does this by performing five essential functions: nutrient cycling, water relations, biodiversity and habitat, filtering and buffering, and physical stability and support (Andrews et al., 2004).
Soil Science Extension
University of Wisconsin Madison