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Berlin Environmental Atlas

01.06 Soil-Scientific Characteristic Values (Edition 2002)

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01.06.1 Types of Soil


The soil type of a particular soil is determined by the grain size composition of its mineral components. Coarse soil (grain diameter >2 mm) und der fine soil (grain diameter <2 mm) types are distinguished. In addition, in very wet locations, peat is formed by the accumulation of incompletely decomposed plant material, which overlays the mineral soils.

Fine Soil Types

Fine soil types are formed from certain proportions of the grain fractions clay, silt and sand. The main soil types are subdivided into clay, silt, loam and sand, with loam representing a grain mixture of sand, silt and clay. Soil type is an important identification value for the derivation of such ecological qualities as nutrient and pollutant retention capacity, hydrologic budget and retention capacity, and filtration and buffering capacity for pollutants.

Coarse Soil Types

All mineral components of the soil >2 mm in diameter are described as coarse soil types, or the soil skeleton. The proportion of coarse soil has an effect on water permeability, air and nutrient balance, and the capacity to bind nutrients and pollutants. The higher the share of coarse soil, the more permeable a soil is, due to the large pores, while the capacity to bind and the nutrient level depend on the type of fine soil.

Types of Peat

Peat is formed in a water-saturated environment from the accumulation of incompletely decomposed plant material. It is characterized by a high water-retention capacity and a very high cation exchange capacity. Various types of peat can be distinguished, according to the type of plant remains and the formation conditions. Bog peat is rich in alkalines and nutrients, and in many cases, even in carbonates. Transition-mire peats include plant remains from both low and high-nutrient locations.


The fine, coarse and peat soil types, each differentiated between topsoil and subsoil, were determined for each soil association. The data were essentially taken from the profile sections by Grenzius (1987). Some values have been supplemented by expert evaluations.

The mapped fine soil types are summarized in Table 1. Since the types of soil are in many cases different in the topsoil and the subsoil, respectively, due to the material of which the soil was originally formed, to the soil development and to its use, they have been examined separately. In addition, soil types occurring frequently within a soil association are identified as the main soil type, and distinguished from the more rarely occurring soil types, known as subsidiary soil types.

Table 1: Types of Soil and their Occurrence in Berlin
Type of soil Designation Mapped
in Berlin
fS fine sand x
gS coarse sand  
Ls2 weakly sandy loam  
Ls3 medium sandy loam x
Ls4 strongly sandy loam x
Lt2 weakly clay loam  
Lt3 medium clay loam  
Lts sandy clay loam  
Lu silty loam x
mS medium sand x
Sl2 weakly loamy sand  
Sl3 medium loamy sand x
Sl4 strongly loamy sand x
Slu silty loamy sand  
Ss pure sand  
St2 weakly clay sand  
St3 medium clay sand  
Type of soil Designation Mapped
in Berlin
Su2 weakly silty sand x
Su3 medium silty sand x
Su4 strongly silty sand  
TI loamy clay  
Ts2 weakly sandy clay  
Ts3 medium sandy clay  
Ts4 strongly sandy clay  
Tt pure clay  
Tu2 weakly silty clay  
Tu3 medium silty clay  
Tu4 strongly silty clay  
Uls sandy loamy silt  
Us sandy silt x
Ut2 weakly clay silt  
Ut3 medium clay silt x
Ut4 strongly clay silt  
Uu pure silt  
Table 1: Types of Soil and their Occurrence in Berlin (partially from Soil-Scientific Mapping Directive 1994)

Those soil associations which have largely the same fine soil types for the topsoil and for the subsoil were combined to a soil type group. The assignment of soil type groups has thus been done merely for the sake of a readable map with an easily comprehensible number of legend units. For details or further calculations, more precisely differentiated data are available. Soil associations occur which consist of the same soil types, both in the topsoil and in the subsoil. However, the majority of soil associations differ in terms of soil types between the topsoil and the subsoil.

The combination of the types of soil of the topsoil with those of the subsoil resulted in 14 soil type groups of fine soil (<2 mm), which are represented by the legend units of the map.

However, the soil associations of a soil type group may differ within this group with regard to peat or stone content (soil skeleton, coarse soil >2 mm) of the topsoil and subsoil, so that these have been represented by additional designations.

The coarse soil types in the Berlin soils are compiled in Table 2 zusammengestellt. Their occurrence in the topsoil and the subsoil, respectively, is distinguished.

Table 2: Designations of Coarse Soil Types Occurring in Berlin Soils
Type of Coarse Soil Designation
o2 Low proportion of round stones
x2 Low proportion of sharp stones
x3 Medium proportion of sharp stones
fGx Very low proportion of fine gravel
Table 2: Designations of Coarse Soil Types Occurring in Berlin Soils
(Soil-Scientific Mapping Directive 1994)

The types of peat occurring in Berlin are compiled in Table 3 zusammengestellt. For the representation of their ecological qualities and the ascertainment of their characteristic values, a distinction is made between peat occurring in the topsoil and the subsoil, respectively. If several peat types occur in a soil or a soil association, only the characteristic type of peat is taken into account (characteristic peat type).

Table 3: Name of Peat Types Occurring in Berlin Soils
Type of Peat Designation
Hn Bog peat
fHn Fossile bog peat
Hu Transition-mire peat
Table 3: Name of Peat Types Occurring in Berlin Soils
(Soil-Scientific Mapping Directive 1994)

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