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Berlin Environmental Atlas

01.11 Criteria for the Evaluation of the Soil Functions (Edition 2013)

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01.11.3 Near-Natural Quality


In the Berlin city area, soils have been subjected to great anthropogenic changes. The criterion "near-naturalness" describes the extent of the changes vis-à-vis the original natural situation. Changes in this connection include particularly intermixing of the natural horizons of the soils, the removal of soil material, or the overburdening with outside materials. Substance immission and lowering of the groundwater table are not considered here. With the aid of the Soil Association Map and information on land use, it is possible to provide an overview of the extent of anthropogenic change, and hence of the near-naturalness of the soils and soil associations in Berlin.
This criterion has special significance, inasmuch as it can be assumed that natural soil characteristics and the variety of soil qualities have primarily been preserved at little-changed sites, whereas anthropogenic influence has led to a homogenization of soil types and qualities. Therefore, the rough distinction between near-natural and anthropogenically characterized soil associations has already been undertaken in the formation of the legend units of the Soil Association Map.


For the determination of the near-naturalness, Blume, Sukopp (1976) introduced the term "hemerobic levels" for soils, analogous to the term hemerobia in botany. Accordingly, various land-use forms were classed in so-called hemerobic levels, according to the degree of cultural effect on ecosystems. Grenzius used this system in 1987 to describe the anthropogenic influence on soils and soil associations in the Map of Soil Associations of Berlin (West), 1985.
Grenzius further subdivided the hemerobic levels, depending on land use (cf. Tab.1). The point of departure was that particularly the specific anthropogenic uses of sections determine the type and size of the change and destruction of their natural soil.
The classification of the sections is shown in Table 1 according to use, by various authors.

Table 1: Evaluation of the Near-Naturalness based on Hemerobics
  Size of Ground Variation Examplary Land use Criteria Near Naturalness
  not changed no occurance in Berlin    
  very little changed no occurance in Berlin    
1 somewhat changed Forest Natural grown soil with little human influence high
2 little to moderately changed Park in outside area (e.g.landscape park) Topsoil moderately influenced by human, Topsoil influneced by human medium
3 moderately changed Meadows and Pastures Topsoil influenced by human
4 Meadows and Pastures Topsoil influenced by human
5 Park, Greenspace, Graveyard, Allotment garden, Tree Nursery, Weekend Cottage area, Camping place, Residential area with sealing < 30 % Topsoil and somehow subsoil moderately influnced by human (partly soil deposit)
6 strongly changed Former Sewage farms Topsoil (strong), Subsoil moderately influnced by human low
7 very strongly changed Park in inside area (predominently on deposits) , Allotment garden on abrasion area or on deposit area, Vacant area, Army training area, Open caste mining, Train area Overall strongly changed soil due to ground construction, predominently deposited area
8 extreme strongly changed Sport area, Outdoor Swimming area, Residential area with sealing between 30 and 60 % Overall strongly changed soil due to ground construction, predominently deposited area very low
9 City square, Railroad embankment, Residential Area with sealing > 60 % Overall very strongly changed soil due to ground construction, predominently deposited area
10 Residential area)* with sealing > 90 % By abrasion and deposition totaly changed soil due to compaction.
*) Residential area includes following land uses: Living area, Mixed area, Commercial and Industrial area, Public facilities, Utilities area and Traffic area Remark: Catagory 1-5 are close to near natural soil properties, catagory 6-10 are influnced by human (cf. Environmental atlas map 01.01 Soil Associations.)

Table 1: Evaluation of the Near-Naturalness based on Hemerobics from Blume and Sukopp (1976) or Blume (1990); Grenzius(1985); Stasch/Stahr/Sydow (1991)

Since no completely unchanged soils exist in Berlin anymore, the categories of unchanged or little-changed soils were not considered. Accordingly, the categories were newly established, with consideration for the classification criteria of Blume, Grenzius and Stasch, Stahr, Sydow, repectively, for the evaluation of Berlin soils.

For the determination of the near-naturalness of the soils, data for soil associations, use, use type and sealing degree were used. From these values, an automated classification was carried out as an initial aggregation step, by assignment of certain combinations of soil associations, uses and sealing degrees to the corresponding evaluation categories with regard to near-naturalness (levels 1-10 in Grenzius, according to Tab. 1), including use type if appropriate.

For selected land uses, such as green areas and parks, fallow areas etc., an individual evaluation of near-naturalness was required. Soils in park and green areas and of fallow areas can have been changed to very different degrees. While soils in inner-city areas have as a rule changed considerably, or even been completely newly formed by land-filling, etc., in the outlying areas, near-natural soils can often be found, which have the same use, but have undergone only minor changes. The near-naturalness of these sections was therefore determined individually with the aid of topographical maps, protected-area maps and reports.

For the presentation in this map, an evaluation and summary in four levels, from "very low" to "high", was used (cf. Tab. 2, according to Lahmeyer 2000).

Table 2: Evaluation of Near-Naturalness based on levels
Level, according to Tab. 1 Evaluation Designation
1 4 high
2 - 5 3 medium
6 - 7 2 low
8 - 10 1 very low
Table 2: Evaluation of Near-Naturalness, Based on Levels

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