A spatial data infrastructure for storing and exchanging global soil data
The demand for soil data for agro-ecological and other environmental applications at national, regional and global level is growing; establishing a spatial data infrastructure (SDI) for global soil data is key for connecting soil data holders and serving the user community effectively. Organizations investing in a flexible soil SDI can efficiently contribute to and benefit from international collaborative initiatives while consolidating their role as mandated soil data holder. ISRIC–World Soil Information has been investing in the development of new geo-information technologies with the objective to improve and increase global soil data exchange and use. Here we describe main components of ISRIC’s evolving global soil SDI. First step of building an SDI is data organization and modelling. WoSIS1 (World Soil Information Service) is ISRIC’s enterprise database based on PostgreSQL, in which (harmonized) soil profile data and polygon maps are stored under a common standard using a uniform model that is flexible enough to integrate into web-services. This database can serve as a node in the global soil data infrastructure foreseen by the Global Soil Partnership. Second step is the development of web-services, both generic and specialized, for access and exchange of data. Generic web-services implement standards of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) like WMS (Web Mapping Service), WCS (Web Coverage Service) and WFS (Web Feature Service). Such services are building blocks for web-interfaces, such as ISRIC’s SoilGrids2, that visualise and serve quality-assessed soil data. Specialized webservices, like REST (Representational State Transfer), provide support for mobile apps, such as ISRIC’s SoilInfo3 app, and allow users to stream, query and download data4. As mobile phones and tablet use is surpassing the traditional desktop computer it is important for a soil SDI to be represented in such platforms, taking into account situations where bandwidth is limited. Specialized web-services can also serve soil data in specific formats such as the upcoming soilML standard for interoperable data exchange.