Soil Science and Soil Pollution


At the end of this course the student will have acquired knowledge, skills and competences to define what soil is and explain its relevance as an interface. The student will be able to integrate the pedosphere in the Earth system, realizing its complexity and continuous interaction with the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, analyzing and evaluating the interdisciplinary involved in its study and in the global environmental problems it is implicated. The student will have acquired knowledge related with soil pollution and its remediation, in the scope of an environmental engineer. Skills on how to deal with contaminated soils and available rehabilitation techniques. Students will develop further skills of transmission and display of acquired knowledge.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Alexandra de Jesus Branco Ribeiro


Weekly - 4

Total - 70

Teaching language



There are no precedence requisites.



Blum, W.E.H. 2005. Functions of Soil for Society and the Environment. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, 4(3):75–79.

Brady, N.C.; Weil, R.R. 2008. The Nature and Properties of Soil. 14 ed. Pearson-Prentice Hall, 990 pp.

COM(2021) 699 final

EEA 2020. Land and soil. In: The European environment — state and outlook 2020: knowledge for transition to a sustainable Europe 2020. European Environment Agency, pp. 112-131.

FAO & ITPS 2015. Status of the World’s Soil Resources - Main Report. Rome, Italy, FAO

IUSS Working Group WRB. 2015. World Reference Base for Soil Resources 2014, update 2015. World Soil Resources Reports No. 106. FAO, Rome, 203 pp.

Rodríguez Eugenio, N.; McLaughlin, M.; Pennock, D. 2018. Soil Pollution: a hidden reality. FAO. Rome, Italy.

Teaching method

Lectures are carried out in rooms equiped with data-show.

Lecturing of problem-solving sessions are carried out in rooms equiped with data-show and laboratory sessions in the Laboratory 231.

The pedagogic material is available for the students in the Discipline Sheet created in the Moodle, which also allows students to follow the Course through the whole semester, e.g. in what concerns the work carried out in small working groups.

Evaluation method


1.1 – The admission to the final exam is conditioned by a) absences must be below or equal to 1/3 of the total number of classes. b) Delivering and oral presentation of a team report. Each team has 3 students. This report represents 30% of the final grade. Compliance with a) and b) is compulsory for final exam admission.

1.2 – LECTURES EVALUATION represents 70% of the final grade. Students have a continuous evaluation (1.2.1)  of  2 tests through the semester. The final grade is calculated as a weighted average. 1.2.2 – Evaluation through final exam:The conditions for final exam evaluation are the fulfilment of the admission condition (number of presences and final report) and students who failed the continuous evaluation. The students who want to increase the final grade are also admitted to the final exam 1.3 – Team report: The report, with 5 pages maximum, must comply with the format made available to every student through the Moodle. Each team will perform an oral presentation of their report, which must not exceed 15 minutes.

Subject matter

1 - General view of soil formation and constitution. Profile. Horizons; 2 - Mineral matter; 3 - Organic matter; 4 - Some physical properties of soil: texture, colour, structure, real and apparent densities, porosity, 5 - Adsorption and ion exchange; 6 - Dispersion and flocculation of colloids; 7 - Acidity and alkalinity. Their determination. Buffering capacity. Distribution in Portugal. Importance; 8 - Soil water; 9 - Classification and characterization of soils in Portugal; 10 - Soil functions and uses; 11 - EU Soil Strategy for 2030. Forms of degradation. DPSIR framework; 12 - Accelerated erosion and desertification. Soil conservation; 13 - Agricultural activity and soil contamination; 14 - Heavy metals and organic micropollutants. Behaviour in soil; ProSolos15 - Assessment and recovery of contaminated areas. Remediation techniques. Case studies and their application. 

The importance of soil and soil pollution in environmental engineering and on SDGs 2, 13 and 15.


Programs where the course is taught: