An Assessment of the Soil Quality Index in a Mediterranean Agro Ecosystem
Soil quality is a complex functional concept, which cannot be measured directly but only be inferred from both soil characteristics and cultivation practices. Among different approaches used, Soil Quality Index (SQI) is considered to be the most appropriate for quantitative assessment of soil quality. Since, there is no standard method for SQI estimation, the aim of this study is to identify soil quality parameters that could be used for the development of reliable SQI which could be effectively applied in Mediterranean ecosystems. Three different methods resulting in different SQIs were evaluated regarding their ability to monitor changes in agricultural soil properties over time. Overall, a set of soil’s parameters was used as soil health indicators (pH, CaCO3, EC, NO3-N, P, K, Mg, Cu, B, Zn, Fe, Mn, Silt, Clay, Sand and SOC) derived from 605 soil samples used to calculate the above SQIs. The most reliable SQI to distinguish the effect of the examined parameters was the weighted additive approach. These 16 soil indicators can be used as decision support tool for soil management practices, as well as indirect measures of soil function, serving to assess soil health for a sustainable Mediterranean agro-environment.