Global Soil Partnership

  • awareness raising
  • soil biodiversity
  • capacity development
  • soil information and data
  • soil erosion
  • soil fertility
  • soil governance
  • soil pollution
  • soil salinity
  • soil organic carbon

Soil information and data

Welcome to GLOSIS | Global Soil Information System

Global Soil Information System (GLOSIS) aims to develop a spatial data infrastructure that brings together soil information collected by national institutions. Soil information are needed to answer critical questions at the global scale, to provide the global context for more local decisions, and supply fundamental soil data for understanding Earth processes. GLOSIS is envisioned as a federation of soil information systems, which share interoperable soil data sets via web services. This approach will empower countries to develop their soil information systems as reference centres for national soil information. 


How to use it, who can use it and its content

Underlying GLOSIS is a spatial data infrastructure that connects the various GLOSIS components and provides the tools to store, process and share the spatial data. The infrastructure is aimed at the exchange and retrieval of soil information collected by (national) soil information institutes through a web-based platform. This will be achieved in a decentralised manner, with source institutions largely retaining their data and controlling outside access to their products. The broad vision is that of a federation of soil information systems (SIS), and interoperable data sets.

Ideally, countries and other data providers have their own soil information systems with data storage and data access. Through GLOSIS these systems will ‘communicate’ (exchange) data in a commonly recognisable way. This federated system of the GSP and its supporting capacity development programme will empower countries and other data providers facilitating a standardised soil data infrastructure and easy querying and exchange of soil data at national, institutional, regional and international scales.

Note that each data provider can (continue to) serve its own data through its own portal using its own software and services. The discovery hub is not a replacement for national or institutional soil web portals.

Exchange of soil data coming from different countries and institutes require adoption of common standards for data exchange.

Based on this general design of GLOSIS, four main building blocks can be devised. Below a brief overview of these components:


Abstract, architectural component that defines how data are organised; it also embodies a common understanding of what soil profile data are. The GLOSIS domain model defines the structure of the data sharing vehicle and determines the structure of the database underlying the reference GLOSIS node.


Standards for data publication and exchange allow different parties to send and receive soil (point) data through a well-recognised medium. Existing standards such as those issued by the Open Geospatial Consortium can be adopted for GLOSIS.


A soil information system connected to the internet and able to publish soil data according to the GLOSIS data exchange specifications; it can be a server, or cluster of servers, reachable through a URL. GLOSIS nodes can be existing soil information systems but also newly implemented systems. The Support Node is a specialised instance of a GLOSIS node hosted and maintained by the GSP. It is intended to host data from institutions that are not able or do not have the ambition to set up their own GLOSIS node.


A web-based gateway to the GLOSIS nodes offering data browsing and discovery functionalities of data within GLOSIS. It brings all nodes together, through harvesting of web services, into a single point of access for users. It usually consists of view and catalogue services. Internally, a registry of the available services, allowed terms and their meanings (vocabularies), are stored and maintained.

There are large differences between data holders in how soil data are stored, managed and disseminated. Some countries maintain full-fledged soil information systems while others have their soil data stored in tables on a local computer or even only on paper. Implementing a sound soil information system (SIS) requires advanced knowledge and skills, including the implementation and management of relational database systems and the employment of standards for the creation, exchange and publication of geospatial data on the internet. Designing and setting-up a soil information system from scratch could be technically overwhelming for data holders with limited knowledge and skills in setting up (geospatial) data systems.

To support data holders in setting up a (national) soil information system, the GLOSIS template node is provided. The template node is a deployable infrastructure ready to host and serve all important components of a soil information system, in compliance with the data exchange standards and services that will be used in GLOSIS. Thus, by deploying a template node, and populating it with data, a data holder acquires a fully functional soil information system that can be easily linked to the GLOSIS federation. The template node can be a solution for data holders who wish to set up their own soil information system but have limited technical capacity to do so. Sharing interoperable soil data will not necessarily rely on the implementation of a national or institutional soil information system. Besides supporting capacity building, the global data infrastructure will offer components and solutions for those partners which do not have their own information systems well-developed yet through the support node.

The federation-based architecture described here allows soil data holders to choose between three different levels of participation to GLOSIS, hereby acknowledging the differences in technical level, technical skills and resources of data holders as well as differences in ambitions that data holders might have for setting up and maintaining their own SIS, as it follows:

  • Tailored implementation

For data holders with an existing SIS. The data holder must implement the GLOSIS data exchange specifications in its data services to guarantee full interoperability with the GLOSIS federation, but maintains its current SIS data model. Because existing SIS are based on different technologies and structures and store soil data differently, this requires tailor-made solutions for mapping the SIS data model to the data exchange model.

  • Template implementation

For data holders that wish to setup and populate their own SIS. They implement the GLOSIS template node. Data holders opting for this possibility shall primarily be concerned with the compliance of their data and its loading into the database of the template node. Data exchange and publication is taken care of by the template node.

  • Support implementation

For data holders lacking the resources, knowledge or desire to set up and maintain a SIS. These data holders can submit the soil data they wish to share to the support node. The support node is a GLOSIS template node that will be centrally managed. The data will be stored in the database of the support node and published through web services of this node, thus automatically complying with the GLOSIS domain model and the data exchange specification.

Three types of soil data products are going to be distributed through GLOSIS:

1.Soil profile and point data (following a two-tier model)

Tier 1 as a ‘comprehensive federated database’ with minimal data requirement and no stringent requirements on data quality or representativeness. Its objective is to provide access to as many digital profile data as possible. Tier 2 as a ‘world reference database’ with well-described and analysed soil profiles with thematic subsets of minimal required data, harmonized and quality-assessed.

2.Global polygon coverage

Polygon Coverage is foreseen as an updated and improved version of the FAO/UNESCO Soil Map of the World, building on national soil polygon maps and pragmatic mapping methods such as developed under the EU FP7 e-SOTER project.

3.Global grids

Three types of global grid products are identified:
(a) an updated Harmonized World Soil Database, which is a global raster combined with a large soil class and property database;
(b) fine resolution soil grids version 0, which will be a collection of existing grids (1 km resolution) with no attempt at harmonization;
(c) fine resolution soil grids version 1, which will be a collection of consistent, standardized grids of soil properties with global coverage at high resolution (100 – 250 m).

The federative architecture of GloSIS will allow data providers to join as a node in the federation according to three participation levels:

1.Ad-hoc implementation

Data providers that already possesses a soil SDI implement the GloSIS data exchange protocol in its data services.

2.Reference implementation

Data providers build their SIS based on the GloSIS reference implementation which is an off-the-shelf, deployable bundle based on open-source software that performs the functions of a GloSIS node. The reference implementation is thus foreseen as a ready-to-run block.

2.Support implementation

Data providers unable to set up and maintain a SIS can store and publish their data through the GloSIS support node that is hosted by the GSP.

The GSP will support the participation of countries and other data providers in GloSIS through a ‘Country Soil Information System - CountrySiS’programme. Guidelines for this programme, as well as an implementation manual, will be developed for this purpose.

FAO Global Soil Partnership will assist you in receiving necessary information about GLOSIS | Global Soil Information System. If you are interested, send us an email at [email protected]

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