University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Plant, Soil & Entomological Sciences Soil & Land Resources
Soil Orders
Soil Links
  Gelisols    Histosols    Spodosols    Andisols    Oxisols    Vertisols    Aridisols    Ultisols    Mollisols    Alfisols    Inceptisols    Entisols

Gelisols (from Latin gelare, "to freeze") are soils of very cold climates that contain permafrost within 2 meters of the surface. These soils are limited geographically to the high-latitude polar regions and localized areas at high mountain elevations. Because of the extreme environment in which they are found, Gelisols support only ~0.4% of the world's population - the lowest percentage of any of the soil orders.

Gelisols are estimated to occupy ~9.1% of the Earth's ice-free land area and ~8.7% of the US. Although some Gelisols may occur on very old land surfaces, they show relatively little morphological development. Low soil temperatures cause soil-forming processes such as decomposition of organic materials to proceed very slowly. As a result, most Gelisols store large quantities of organic carbon - only soils of wetland ecosystems contain more organic matter. Gelisols of the dry valleys of Antarctica are an exception - they occur in a desert environment with no plants and consequently contain very low quantities of organic carbon.

The frozen condition of Gelisol landscapes makes them sensitive to human activities.

Gelisols are divided into 3 suborders: Histels, Turbels, and Orthels. Click here for more information about these suborders. Click here to view a map of their distribution in the US.

Click on map to view larger image

Click on map to view larger image
<< back to Soil Orders list Gelisol example 1 >> 

1. Gelisol landscape
patterned ground
2. Gelisol landscape
polygonal cracks
3. Orthel
northern Alaska
4. Fibristel
5. Histoturbel
Brooks Range, Alaska
6. Anhyorthel landscape
7. Typic Anhyorthel
8. Gelisol land use
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
9. Thermokarst landscape
If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions about the 12 Soil Orders web site,
please contact
Dr. Paul McDaniel  at the Soil Science Division,
University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-2339.