Evolution of spatial indicators of soil health in response to climate change in Québec and Ontario

Producers and agricultural stakeholders will be better equipped to understand the impacts of climate change on land use and its effects on soil health and vulnerability to degradation.

Project details
Scientific program
2014-2019 programming
Theme(s) and priority(s)
Commercial Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture
Start and duration
June 2018 • 4 years
Project Status
In progress
Principal(s) investigator(s)
Marc-Olivier Gasser
Asim Biswas
Guelph University


Climate change is likely to lead to an intensification of agricultural production on existing arable lands and the expansion of farming operations into regions where the climate is not currently conducive to cultivation. This intensified land use will inevitably lead to increased mineralization of the soil’s organic matter and the degradation of soil structure.

Runoff and erosion into water bodies and greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase significantly, while the impact on crop productivity remains uncertain. It is therefore important to anticipate the nature and extent of changes in soil health in order to put in place practices that will mitigate these impacts and ensure soil productivity.



  • Develop and spatialize a soil health index based on historical soil property data, from which the risk of soil degradation in response to climate change will be quantified and mapped;

  • Develop soil conservation techniques to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure the productivity of agricultural soils in Québec and Ontario, especially in areas where farming is currently limited but is likely to develop.


  • Develop predictive relationships between soil health indicators, crop information, cultivation practices and historical climate using mathematical and machine learning approaches;

  • Map the risk of soil health degradation in the two provinces according to agricultural land use and current and future climate conditions;

  • Compare different soil conservation strategies aimed at reducing the risk of degradation resulting from climate change and intensified land use by measuring erosion and runoff using rainfall simulations on outfitted plots;

  • Raise awareness among producers and agricultural stakeholders of the effects of climate change and land use on soil quality, vulnerability to degradation, carbon sequestration and water quality

Expected results

The project will provide a technique for evaluating various spatial indicators of physical soil quality on the basis of regional climate and agricultural practices. It will make it possible to map soil degradation risk in a changing climate and will validate soil conservation practices that protect this important resource in the face of climate change.

All the results will be transferred to producers and agricultural advisors, decision-makers and soil analysis laboratories, for example through meetings, conferences or visits to demonstration plots.

Benefits for adaptation

Benefits for adaptation

Producers and agricultural stakeholders will be better equipped to understand the impacts of climate change on land use and its effects on soil health and vulnerability to degradation (loss of organic matter, erosion, etc.).

The results of the project should help decision-makers target the regions and soils most at risk when developing and implementing strategies to prevent the degradation of agricultural soils.


This project is funded by the Government of Quebec and meets the objectives of the Plan pour une économie verte 2030.

Other participants

  • Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

  • Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec

  • Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affaires

  • Agro Enviro Lab

  • Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

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