SOTER - Soil and Terrain Database Programme

Project Description
SOTER aims to establish a World Soils and Terrain Database, at scale 1:5 000 000, containing digitized map units and their attribute data in standardized format, using a uniform methodology. The programme is implemented by FAO, UNEP and ISRIC - World Soil Information, under the aegis of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), in collaboration with a wide range of national soil institutes (1986 - present).

ISRIC plays a lead role in methodology development and programme implementation. Space Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) digital elevation data are being used to derive the different landform units and to generate terrain information; soil attribute data are largely derived from legacy field data. Ultimately, a global SOTER is to replace the FAO-Unesco Soil Map of the World (SMW), the first internationally accepted inventory of world soil resources.

SOTER databases are developed at scales ranging from 1:5 million to 1:500 000, depending largely on the needs of the users (see datasets at:

SOTER data have been used for a wide range of applications, including assessments of impacts of soil degradation on food supply, soil vulnerability to pollution and modelling of soil organic carbon stock and changes at national and regional levels.

For details see SOTER pages at ISRIC (, FAO ( and JRC-IES (