A European morpho-functional classification of humus forms

A Zanella, B Jabiol, J. F Ponge, G Sartori, R de Waal, B van Delft, U Graefe, Nathalie Cools, K Katzensteiner, H Hager, M Englisch

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    In Europe an abundance of humus taxonomies exists starting with early approaches in the late 19th century. Frequently used in an international context, they do not cover all site conditions in the European area. Although having basic concepts and general lines, the European (and North American, Canadian) classification systems differ in important parameters used for the description and classification of humus forms. These discrepancies result in incongruities, so they require adjustments when exchanging partially compatible soil data, even between nearby countries. In 2003, 26 European specialists in humus forms met in Trento (Italy) and decided to formulate rules of classification based on morphogenetic descriptions and diagnostic horizons, adapted to European ecological conditions. Taking into account old and new European and North American systems of humus forms classification, six main references (Anmoor, Mull, Moder, Mor, Amphi and Tangel) were defined, each of them further divided into more detailed categories. This inventory assigned a strong discriminatory power to the action of soil animals. Both semiterrestrial (anoxic) and terrestrial (aerated) topsoils were classified. Descriptors of diagnostic horizons were conceived in accordance with recent international soil classifications. Assigning an ‘ecological value’ to each main humus form along a gradient from biologically active forms, degrading and incorporating all organic remains, to those characterized by the accumulation of poorly transformed organic matter, this European system of classification avoids a strong hierarchical structure and allows a flexible approach open to additional ecological contributions and renditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number3-4
    Pages (from-to)138-145
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Thematic list

    • Environment

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B003-ecology
    • forestry


    • forest and agriculture policy

    Geographic list

    • Europe


    • fieldwork (observations and sampling)


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