Gerhard Bechtold

  Consultant for National (Geo-)Information Systems and Database Setup, for Natural Resources Assessments   


Jordan Soil and Climatic Information System

The work described in this manual has been undertaken as part of a contract (No. SEM/03/628/005) of the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) for the National Soil Map and Land Use Project under the auspices of the Ministery of Agriculture (MoA), Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The information system JOSCIS has been developed by the Project's Information System Specialist Gerhard Bechtold of the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre (SSLRC), Cranfield Institute of Technology, UK, under the guidance and supervision of Dr R J A Jones, Senior Data Management Specialist of the Project and employee of SLLRC, and M G Jarvis, Overseas Consultancy Manager, SSLRC. Mr Austin Hutcheon (HTS) and other members of the field team gave valuable assistance in the design of the field recording cards for collecting the soil information. The manual has been written by Gerhard Bechtold and edited by Dr Jones who also contributed to the introductory sections.


The Jordan Soil and Climatic Information System - JOSCIS - has been established as an integral part of the National Soil Map and Land Use Project. The Terms of Reference for this project suggested that 'a country which does not already have a national geo-referenced database should seriously consider implementing such a system during its first major mapping operation'. It is clear that any subsequent national resource survey such as the National Soil Map and Land Use Project calls for the establishment of an appropriate geo-referenced database if the results are to be fully utilised for planning the sustainable use of land.

Without computer methods, the data from natural resource surveys can only be deposited in filing cabinets and at best retrieved by laborious manual methods. Experience suggests that at most 5 per cent of the data would ever be used again. The very large costs of collecting data are clearly incompatible with such a low level of re-use. Hence JOSCIS was borne out of the requirement to store all the data accumulated during the National Soil Map and Land Use Project in a readily accessible format.

Following the experience of natural resource survey systems throughout the world, the consultants SSLRC and HTS) proposed the inclusion of other soil related data, such as climatic, topographic, geological, cadastral, and land use and land cover information. The inclusion of this broad range of data related to soils would provide an information base sufficiently detailed to make the interpretations needed to support decisions about future land use.

The information of spatial data analysis dictates that any land information system today must comprise the usual processing capabilities of a geographical information system (GIS) in addition to a flexibly structured and comprehensive database management system (DBMS). The main components of JOSCIS conform to this model and are shown on page 1-4 together with the main types of data.

Therefore, the main components are: The DBMS is largely a bespoke system running under dBase IV, with program modules developed and running under Clipper 5 (version 5.01). The modules are stand-alone executable (EXE) programs accessing the soil and climatic databases in dBase IV (DBF files). The programs can be called on DOS level or through a menu system, such as Automenu.

As Clipper 5 uses a different indexing system from dBase IV, two different sets of index files are set up for each database (DBF) file: NTX for Clipper and NDX for dBase The design of JOSCIS is based on land information systems developed by SSLRC in other parts of the world, but the program code is entirely the work of Gerhard Bechtold .

A proprietary GIS system, the Spatial Analysis System - SPANS - developed by Intera Tydac Technologies Inc, has been adopted for compiling a geographic database for Jordan and undertaking a wide range of spatial analysis. Digitizing of data has been undertaken using SPANS 4.3 but the system now runs under SPANS 5.22. An interface between the DBMS and the GIS has been programmed to facilitate data transfer and processing. However, the Project's SPANS software licence does not allow individual customisation of the GIS interface and the link between the DBMS and the GIS is not as transparent as it could be.

Transfer of data to other software packages is incorporated, in the form of ASCII files with defined syntax, for the following packages: This current version (1.0) of JOSCIS represents the first phase in the development of the system and coincides with the end (July 1993) of Gerhard Bechtold's current input to the project. Because the system has been programmed in a modular way it's capabilities can be enhanced in the future. Both SSLRC and HTS believe that there is considerable scope of enhancement, particularly in the interpretation of the data and in the modelling capability of the system.

JOSCIS 1.0 already contains all the data collected during the Level 1 survey and significant amounts of data collected during the Level 2 survey activities. In this respect, it is a very significant soil database, containing more computerised soil descriptions in a centrally managed facility than can be found in the central databases of many EC countries.

Through a technology transfer agreement, the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture has been granted a licence to undertake further development of JOSCIS. The Project's managers now propose that this development will be undertaken mainly by suitably qualified Jordanian computer specialists some of whom are currently working in the Project's Computer Section. However, it is strongly recommended that the locally based computer specialists are supported by external experts from SSLRC particularly for the difficult systems analysis and design work.

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An important tool available to the policy maker for planning the sustainable use of resources is land evaluation, the procedure to assess the suitability of land for particular kinds of use. A wide range of factors can be incorporated into a land evaluation - geology, soils, climate, water, farming systems, crops, management, economy and populations - but the first step is to assess land suitability for a particular kind of use. The land suitability can be assessed from a combination of Land Qualities using an FAO type framework (FAO 1976). A Land Quality is an attribute of the land which acts in a distinct manner in its influence on the suitability of land for a specific crop or use. Land qualities are combinations of land characteristics, for example, water availability is a land quality obtained by balancing the available water store in the soil against evapotranspiration and rainfall.

A simple land suitability might use a matrix approach based on combining two land qualities, for example, water availability and oxygen availability (assessed as soil drainage status). The land suitability assessment can then become progressively more complex by incorporating other land qualities - fertility, germination, erodability, workability, trafficability, etc. The most important land qualities can be given the most weighting in the suitability assessment.

The information base compiled in the Project is an ideal platform for attempting an automated land evaluation incorporating suitability assessments for specific crops and uses. Since the main objective of land evaluation (in most cases) is management intervention then increasingly such approaches must be based on sound digital data and an objective methodology because intervening in the management of land affects people's livelihood. With the basic datasets now stored in JOSCIS, the task of undertaking an objective land evaluation of Jordan is greatly simplified. Much of the stored data is spatial and the GIS component of JOSCIS should be used to construct maps of the resulting crop and land suitability assessments.

However, land suitability assessment should have a broader basis than the physical characteristics of the land and the figure on page 6 illustrates the factors that ought to be taken into account. The land suitabilities which currently could be calculated from existing JOSCIS data need to be evaluated in the light of the current use of resources - present land use, management techniques and changing imputs. Proposed scenarios for management intervention can then be appraised in economic terms - What would be the effect on the population ? How would proposed intervention schemes interact with Government policy ?

The scheme on page 6 identifies pathways for establishing effective planning for watershed management, regional agriculture, conservation, and environmental protection. Looking to the future, JOSCIS could and perhaps should be expanded to encompass this comprehensive approach. The addition of improved land use data, population statistics and economic information would go a long way towards improving the outputs.

In the medium term (Level 3), an automated land evaluation based on the suitability approach should be attempted and the GIS utilised to output the results. A wide range of thematic maps could be produced addressing various 'what if' scenarios. In the long term (beyond level 3), the results of an iterative approach (by progressively changing limits for particular criteria) would best serve the needs of policy makers and planners in Jordan and an expanded JOSCIS would be the perfect starting point.

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ACHIEVEMENTS (in figures)


Table of Contents

D 1 Introduction  
D 2 Data Entry  
  D 2.1 Soil data entry
  D 2.2 Chemical/analytical data entry
  D 2.3 Soil sample inventory
  D 2.4 Precipitation data entry
D 3 Data Retrieval  
  D 3.1 Retrieval of selected soil data
  D 3.2 Profile descriptions
  D 3.3 Register forms and summaries
  D 3.4 Retrieval of chemical/physical data
  D 3.5 Soil samples inventory
  D 3.6 Work achievements
  D 3.7 Work assessment by surveyor
  D 3.8 Location data
  D 3.9 Precipitation data
  D 3.10 Temperature data
D 4 Data Maintenance  
  D 4.1 Maintenance of pit and bore data
  D 4.2 Appending soil pit or bore data (techn.ref.)
  D 4.3 Internal compilation of master data (techn.ref.)
  D 4.4 Transfer of GIS data (techn.ref.)
  D 4.5 Indexing of data files
  D 4.6 Import/export of series and phases
  D 4.7 Clearance of entry files
  D 4.8 Correction of pit/bore data (techn.ref.)
  D 4.9 Definition of soil mapping units
D 5 Data Dictionary  
  D 5.1 Database structure
  D 5.2 Description codes

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Table of Contents

G 1 Introduction  
G 2 Digitization  
  G 2.1 Digitization of Polygons (Quadtree) Maps
  G 2.2 Digitization of Line Maps
  G 2.3 Digitization of Point Maps
  G 2.4 Advanced Procedures of Map Digitization
G 3 Processing  
  G 3.1 Quadtree Map Compilation in SPANS
  G 3.2 Line Map Compilation in SPANS
  G 3.3 Point Data Compilation in SPANS
  G 3.4 Standard for Browse Maps
  G 3.5 Transfer of Points from Spreadsheet to SPANS
  G 3.6 Conversion of Satellite Images to SPANS
  G 3.7 Definition of New Maps
  G 3.8 Generate Voronoi Maps
  G 3.9 Modelling by Equation
  G 3.10 GIS Modelling: Generation of temperature maps
  G 3.11 Setup of New Universe
  G 3.12 Clipper Link
G 4 Print and Plot  
  G 4.1 Display and Windows Setup
  G 4.2 Map Output: Plot Options
  G 4.3 Printing Maps in SPANS
  G 4.4 AutoCAD: Processing and Editing
  G 4.5 AutoCAD: Plotting
  G 4.6 Transfer of SPANS Maps to Paintbrush
  G 4.7 Transfer of SPANS Maps to Inset
  G 4.8 Transfer of SPANS Maps to Windows
G 5 Map Database  
  G 5.1 List of Maps
  G 5.2 Maps
  G 5.3 General Map Sheet Indices

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Last update: Jan 2007