Ecological Site Descriptions Access

Locating Ecological Site Descriptions

The national set of Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) is a work in progress, so do not be surprised to find that they do not exist or are not complete for your area. Further, a process for efficiently locating ESDs for a land area is still being refined. Our current recommendation is to start with the SoilWeb Online Soil Survey Browser from the California Soil Resource Lab. There are several useful tools here, including cell-phone based location-specific soil queries (that is, what soil and ecological site am I standing on?).

From this page, click on either the Google Maps or Google Earth link. Zoom in to the area of interest sufficiently so that the detailed (SSURGO) soil map unit lines are visible on the maps or imagery (try an eye altitude of <15 km in Google Earth). Be sure to wait a minute or two to let the soil map load.  Click on the soil map unit code of interest, from which a major soil component list and soil profile diagrams will appear. Then click on the soil map unit component name (e.g., Ascalon) that best matches the location of interest when there are multiple components. This step may require you to know the slope, landscape position, or the soil profile characteristics. Then, under Land Classification, click on the entry to the right of Ecological Site Description (e.g., Loamy Plains). This will link you directly to the ESD report. Click on the Complete Report on the left column to see the entire ESD (note that sometimes the .html link is incomplete).

The Ecological Site Information System can be accessed directly here -

You will need to know the MLRA code number to locate a set of ecological sites for a broad geographic region. That code number can be found here -