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Soil Types in Europe

By Gertrude Elizabeth Greene ; Updated September 21, 2017
Europe has quite varied soil, able to support environments ranging from grasslands to dense forest.

The soil of Europe is classified into 23 different orders, each with its own specific characteristics. Many of these types are almost completely absent from Europe, and the order is used to identify soils elsewhere. The classification of a soil into an order depends on many factors, including presence of clay and organic matter, sandiness, source of soil materials, or surrounding environment.


This soil is acidic and develops under forest vegetation in moist cool areas, primarily in northeastern Europe. It is the most common soil in Europe.


Arenosols are sandy and coarse. They drain rapidly and do not hold water or nutrients well. These soils are found in many places in Europe, but they are primarily concentrated around Poland and Lithuania.


As indicated by the name, these soils contain a large amount of calcium. This occurs in the form calcium carbonate, which raises the pH of the soil. They develop primarily in dryer areas like Spain and Turkey.


Cambisols are undeveloped soils, due either to lack of age or to lack of soil material replenishment. They are agriculturally productive and are concentrated in central and south Europe.


These soils are rich in calcium carbonate and organic matter. They are highly alkaline and are found primarily in the steppes in Eastern Europe.


These soils are often composed in part of alluvial deposits from rivers, marshes, or lakes. They are widely distributed throughout Europe.


Histosols are northern soils and have high amounts of organic material. An important attribute is that the accumulation of organic matter is faster than the soil organisms' ability to decompose it.


Leptosols are gravelly soils, present primarily on mountains and in areas of high erosion. They occur over rocks and result from their disintegration.


Luvisols contain clay, especially beneath the surface. They occur in well-drained areas. Luvisols are quite diverse and can be found throughout all of Europe south of Scandanavia.


These soils are high in organic matter. However, unlike Chernozems and Kastanozems, they do not have high amounts of calcium carbonate. They are very productive in terms of agriculture.


Podzols are acidic and are composed of high amounts of organic matter, along with the minerals iron and aluminum. They are found primarily in Scandinavia and other northern areas.