Proposed features/Ground

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Ground
Status: Voting (under way)
Proposed by: Michael Montani
Tagging: natural=bare_soil
Applies to: area, relation
Definition: An area covered by soil, with few or no vegetation. Any groundy (meant as: silt or clay soil, as well as loam (mixed soil with clay/silt/sand) and mixed organic (including humus) and mineral soil), unconsolidated (not only rocks but also soil) bare (vegetation percentage less than 30%) area to be applied whenever the groundy area cannot be tagged with already existing tags, mainly due to the environmental or geological nature of that area (as, for example, natural=wetland + intermittent=yes).
Drafted on: 2020-07-10
RFC start: 2020-07-10
Vote start: 2020-07-24
Vote end: 2020-08-07

Proposal

In this page is proposed to map ground in OSM. When mapping landcover in OSM, it may be possible sometimes to find groundy areas with few or any vegetation covering it.

In this page the term ground will be used as soil, as described in the linked Wikipedia page. With 'ground' in the OSM context, it is meant any soil area (not necessarily compacted) with few or no vegetation on it.

After the discussion with the community, it has been suggested to take inspiration from already existing classification schemas. Indeed the term soil can be used for many different purposes and in many different scientific / technical environments. Also, defining soil as ground with total absence of vegetation is misleading and usually a not so good classification practice.

  • European CORINE's classification schema is not considering bare soil as a class per se, but the area covered by the project (Europe) and the resolution on the ground that is considered doesn't allow recognition of bare soil areas. By the way, bare soil is included in many different classes, all belonging to the "Sparsely vegetated areas" i.e. "Areas with sparse vegetation, covering 10-50% of surface"
  • A paper from USGS a class for barren land is considered as following: "less than one-third of the area has vegetation or other cover" (page 18).
  • FAO's landcover classification schema is considering bare areas as Primarily non-vegetated > Terrestrial > Bare areas. Within Bare areas, Bare soil is an available category, being distinguished by Bare rock whether the terrain is consolidated or not. This classification schema could have been used indeed even when natural=bare_rock has been proposed. Within Bare soil, further classification is made depending on a "stoniness" percentage (5 to 40% Stony, >40% Very stony) and on soil macropatterns (II level). By the way these characteristics have not been considered essential for this proposal.

As a final description of natural=bare_soil is then proposed: "Any groundy (meant as: silt or clay soil, as well as loam (mixed soil with clay/silt/sand) and mixed organic (including humus) and mineral soil), unconsolidated (not only rocks but also soil) bare (vegetation percentage less than 30%) area to be applied whenever the groundy area cannot be tagged with already existing tags, mainly due to the environmental or geological nature of that area (as, for example, natural=wetland + intermittent=yes)." Proposed images: 13 and 15 in Talk page

Bare soil ex1.JPG
Bare soil ex2.JPG

Rationale

Mapping groundy areas in OSM is essential because of the following points:

  • It's an essential feature in landcover mapping, and at the time of the proposal, no real tag to map ground on OSM is there;
  • Is necessary to implement off-road navigation systems. Indeed, this feature could be used to better understand the characteristics of the soil, in an area without vegetation, and set up navigation strategies that take into account whether an area is passable, or how it can behave when the soil is wet (e.g. unpassability, temporary mud) or, on the contrary, is not.
  • Especially in arid places, like in Africa, this feature is very widespread. Many times is permanent, meaning that it won't change in rainy season.

At the time of the proposal, there is an inner duality in the mapping of the natural=* features in OSM:

Therefore it has been decided to start the proposal of the ground feature as:

  • Key : natural
  • Value : bare_earth

but lists of possible keys and values for this tag are proposed as well in the Tagging section.

Many issues brought the creation of the proposal for the ground feature:

  • No existing 'landcover' tag in OSM. natural=bare_rock refers to bedrock and not to soil.
  • It is not possible to consider a default blank map as 'ground', otherwise many areas of the world would be bare ground, or we should cope with the idea that this is necessary otherwise.
  • Areas like these are not mappable with natural=scrub, or natural=grassland, because presence of vegetation, if there, is so low not to let those two tags representative of the reality on the ground.
  • Some arid, groundy areas in Africa, subject to rainy and dry seasons, can be reasonably mapped as natural=wetland + intermittent=yes. By the way this doesn't hold for all the groundy areas.
  • A loose turn-around would be to use natural=desert, but this is an old, abandoned proposal. Many sandy deserts are mapped with natural=sand and natural=dune, even if deserts can be actually composed of other materials. Furthermore groundy patches are not necessarily deserts. This is a further reason to consider the mapping of ground.
  • surface=* has some description of ground there and, at the moment of the proposal, the wikipage states: "Originally concerned about the surface in relation to transport and sports and more commonly used on linear features it is now increasingly used with certain areas of type natural=*,". By the way, surface is most of the times considered an additional tag (especially on highways). Up to now, would be the nearest feature to map ground on OSM, apart from unproposed ones.
  • In the past, a similar landcover tag was proposed. The proposal was rejected mainly because the used value has not been considered representative enough of the reality on the ground and because the proposed landcover key is still a bit controversial.

Examples

These examples are coming from landcover mapping by Unite_Maps_Initiative/UN_Mappers in Somalia. Several similar examples can be found in arid areas in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world.

Groundy area1 1 100.png
Groundy area2 1 20.png
Groundy area3 1 20.png
Groundy area4 1 100.png

The scale is specified in the name of the files.

When someone could claim these areas are temporary, and they could be filled by vegetation in few months, this doesn't seem the reality on the ground by comparing images in different seasons and different years. Other causes of permanent bare soil are pollution of the ground and climate change.

Tagging

The proposed tag is natural=bare_soil.

Further tagging possibilities (not considered in this feature proposal)

  • Percentage of organic material with respect to the mineral one: considered not meaningful as soil is usually composed by both.
  • Humus soil (related to the previous point and very unlikely to remain permanently humus over time).
  • Water retention of soil: useful to understand behaviour of the soil, is difficult to verify on the ground.
  • Percentage of stones in the soil (as in the FAO classification). Same reasons of the previous point.

Applies to

The feature applies to Areas and Relations. Doesn't apply on Nodes.

Rendering

No specific rendering is proposed, but light brown is suggested

Features/Pages affected

If the feature will be approved, the following pages must be changed:

External discussions

Comments

Please comment on the discussion page.

See also

Voting

Instructions for voting
  • Log in to the wiki if you are not already logged in.
  • Scroll down to voting and click 'Edit source'. Copy and paste the appropriate code from this table on its own line at the bottom of the text area:
To get this output you type Description
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal.
{{vote|yes}} --~~~~
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. reason
{{vote|no}} reason --~~~~ Replace reason with your reason(s) for voting no.
  • I abstain from voting but have comments I have comments but abstain from voting on this proposal. comments
{{vote|abstain}} comments --~~~~ If you want don't want to vote but have comments. Replace comments with your comments.

Note: The ~~~~ automatically inserts your name and the current date.


  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --EneaSuper (talk) 11:42, 2 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --GoodClover (talk) 08:12, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Michael Montani (talk) 08:25, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Johan Jönsson (talk) 09:11, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I abstain from voting but have comments I have comments but abstain from voting on this proposal. If just natural=bareground (additional value for key natural) was proposed in a clear way, I would vote yes. As it is presented now, the proposal is unclear and the tagging section does not propose anything, it just lists options. I would suggest to clean this proposal, move all discussions and deliberations to the Talk page, then restart the voting -Peter Elderson (talk) 11:25, 24 July 2020 (UTC)


  • I abstain from voting but have comments I have comments but abstain from voting on this proposal. - Proposed_features/Ground#Tagging is listing multiple methods to map this, what is not a good idea. I am confused a bit as mailing list message mentioned single value. Maybe it is list of considered but rejected alternatives? Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 12:08, 24 July 2020 (UTC) fixed, though good on-the-ground photo of this case would be nice (see comments by Imagico on the talk page)
    • Added 2 photos from one travel in Senegal. Please consider them and let me know any suggestion on mapping or modification of the proposal. --Michael Montani (talk) 11:12, 27 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Mbranco (talk) 15:22, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --corfede (talk) 17:29, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. Sorry, but I don't see the issues I brought up on the talk page resolved. For all I know, naturally unvegetated soil can't exist in the real world, because soil comes from vegetation (biological weathering, humification). With physical weathering only, rock can turn into sand/scree/etc (for which we already have approved or de-facto tags), but not soil. We agreed that terrestrial imagery would help, but it's still missing on the proposal page. The 2 "good examples" on the talk page look like natural=sand (#13) and a desert (#15). If you don't like natural=desert, you can tag it with natural=sand or scree. But natural=desert looks much like the de-facto standard tag for deserts, considering its usage count and distribution. --Fkv (talk) 17:44, 24 July 2020 (UTC)
    • Added terrestrial imagery. To me, that one is not sand (different granulometry), nor scree (very specific definition on natural=scree and clearly not this case). Desert would be interesting considering but, as I already said, is a controversial tag, never accepted and I wouldn't say even de facto used (change the status on the wiki then...). Furthermore, (OT) sandy deserts could be mapped both with natural=desert or (natural=sand and natural=dune), which is a clear duplication. Eventually, deserts have a clear environmental meaning, and not all groundy areas are deserts. --Michael Montani (talk) 11:12, 27 July 2020 (UTC)
The new pictures are still not very helpful, as mentioned on the Talk page. The two with drones look like construction areas or the edge of a road/path area. Please map some actual areas near where you live (or where you have traveled in person) and then present these examples with pictures from more than one angle. This would be very helpful. --Jeisenbe (talk) 21:23, 3 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. Unfortunately the current definition that is proposed for natural=bare_soil is too broad: The description is "An area covered by soil, with few or no vegetation... Any groundy, unconsolidated, bare area ... whenever the ... area cannot be tagged with already existing tags" - but this includes several different types of bare and lightly vegetated areas. It is too broad of a definition, and there are not clear enough examples of when this tag would be used instead of natural=grassland or natural=scrub in semi-arid areas with sparse vegetation. It's also not clear when this tag should be used instead of natural=sand or natural=scree in areas with some loose rock or sand, due to the lack of clear examples. Please address these issues. --Jeisenbe (talk) 01:04, 26 July 2020 (UTC)
    • Added terrestrial imagery. That is not sand nor scree, and it doesn't change during years, as it is arid ground. By the way difference with sand and scree is on granulometry. Initially the proposed feature was "without any vegetation", but it seems it's not accepted to define a class with the lack of something. I agree with you that adding "with few vegeation" causes conflicts with scrub and grassland. To me grassland is an area completely covered by grass, in this case "few vegetation" would be "sparse, rare, not-big-enough spots of grass". For scrub is trickier, I know, and I'm searching for help too. --Michael Montani (talk) 11:12, 27 July 2020 (UTC)
    • Being specified a percentage ("vegetation percentage less than 30%"), we have a rule to use this tag instead of grassland/scrub. I also added some pictures [16-25] in the Talk page. --Mbranco (talk) 12:33, 27 July 2020 (UTC)
I think 30% is too high. Many desert areas are going to have rather sparse bushes, cacti, shrubs or clumps of grass which are rather far apart, but 30% coverage is very significant, and quite different than 5% or 0% vegetation. My understanding is that natural=scrub and natural=heath are currently often used for arid regions with only 10% to 50% coverage by shrub canopy, and this proposed tag would then compete with those existing uses (as well as with natural=grassland). Consider that natural=sand and natural=scree are usually for areas that are almost non-vegetated. Coastal sand dunes that are covered with grass or buses are usually mapped with natural=grassland or natural=scrub (or heath), not natural=sand for the whole area. --Jeisenbe (talk) 21:23, 3 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Waldhans (talk) 06:20, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --GeoFrizz (talk) 16:13, 28 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Charles96 (talk) 17:09, 28 July 2020‎ (UTC)
  • I abstain from voting but have comments I have comments but abstain from voting on this proposal. I feel like this proposal is too narrowly focused and doesn't attempt to align OSM tagging enough regard the accepted landform classifications in the wider international community. OpenStreetMap, like wikipedia, has the ability to educate and illuminate subject matters that people don't even know exist (researching my response has exposed me to a whole lot of information about soil that I never even considered before). The rationale and thought process is good but the proposed implementation needs more work in my opinion. More reference to the natural=* and landform=* and how this value improves the overall coverage would be useful. It should also help inform future proposals and changes within those tags such that the overall quality of the map improves in time. --Dónal (talk) 10:07, 29 July 2020 (UTC)
    • Thank you for these suggestions. I think the problem you are mentioning is going far beyond this feature proposal. As discussed in the tagging mailing list [1] [2] [3], OSM landcover tagging seems to have a twofold nature: some tags are related to "what you see on the ground" (e.g. natural=sand, natural=rock, natural=wood...) and other ones are related to "why that feature is there" (i.e. recalling geological or environmental purposes) (e.g. natural=beach, natural=scree, natural=wetland...). I think no effort (by anyone) could be done to bound the open OSM tagging system (luckily!!) and this twofold nature of landcover on OSM will stay there if not always at least very long time. By the way some efforts could be done to take inspiration from already existing classification systems and try to reproject them on OSM, given community consensus. I feel like natural=bare_soil is going to belong to the first category, but bare soil is cited also in FAO's landcover classification schema, as well as natural=bare_rock, in a (seemingly good) separate way which could well fit on OSM as well. I didn't know about landform=*, but it seems to me it is there mainly due to an import, and many tags are replaced (also in wiki) with existing, accepted ones. At a glance, it seems to me landform is too general and it doesn't make sense to collapse already existing main landcover classes (and in particualar the 'geo' ones) in natural=* into landforms. To my understanding, I would propose to modify landforms into the already existing tags (btw this is OT). Eventually, bare soil doesn't seem to me to be nominated in landform pages, as landform belongs to the "why" category --Michael Montani (talk) 11:03, 29 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. After reading other criticisms in this section, I have to agree with Michael Montani that this tag leaves it unclear as to why vegetation does not or cannot grow on an area. Technically speaking, vegetation can grow on most soil types, except for certain types like sand or scree, which already have their own landuse tags. Specifying different types of bare soil, such as arid regions, is something that I could see as a viable alternative. --501ghost (talk) 04:01, 3 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Adavidson (talk) 00:21, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Carnildo (talk) 05:47, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. What will happen if this is accepted is we'll have even more people attempting to "fill every space" with at least some polygon type, and revert to this as a fall-back when nothing else matches ("whenever the groundy area cannot be tagged with already existing tags"). People will apply this for the few meters of surface between a street and the forest it runs through. People will use this for little patches of earth in cities. This only increases multipolygon mania. I prefer the assumption that anything not mapped otherwise is bare soil. The proponent says that "this is not possible otherwise many areas of the world would be bare ground" but that is a non-argument, those areas are just not properly mapped yet. If this tag is introduced, all the currently non-mapped areas would not magically get covered by this tag either. --Woodpeck (talk) 07:51, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. I rarely vote on these, but this proposal is particularly poorly described and the voting process (to try and exclude some "opposition" votes) was at best poorly implemented. I'm familiar with some of the environments I think that this is supposed to describe (former mining areas) and "bare_soil" really isn't a helpful description. SomeoneElse (talk) 08:21, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. I agree with Imagico, this is way too broad and not the right way to go forward mapping these kinds of areas.--PangoSE (talk)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. Here there be dragons. --Brian de Ford (talk) 12:10, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. First of all, this voting cannot be considered valid because it violates the established voting rules. Between the start of this voting and 4 August 2020 10:07, the voting was introduced with the words "Any opposition vote without reason or suggestion will not be counted in the voting process". That's against the rules. Anyone may vote no without having to provide reasons. Providing reasons required higher skills of English because people feel required to formulate English sentences.
Second, this voting is invalid because the proposal was changed after its start ([4]) significantly: replacing "without vegetation" by "without or few vegetation" in the short description, rewriting the short description, replacing "without" by "with", replacing "any" by "no", large rewrite of the tagging section and adding ground photos after a couple of people have voted).
In addition to the formal reasons which make the voting have no value, I agree the technical arguments of User:Imagico, User:Fkv and User:Mateusz Konieczny. The ground photos are poorly choosen to illustrate the proposal. In contrast, they will make mappers use this tag as a generic nothing-grows-here tag as User:Woodpeck warns because they show areas without vegetation due to either human use (or cattle) or areas where it is likely that the absence of vegetation has no natural reasons.
The definition of the proposed tag reads like a "use this if you don't find something better". That's a poor definition because it relies on other tags which do not exist at the moment. Or in other words: if one day a tag for toxic ground without vegetation is invented, the defintion of this tag silently changes. --Nakaner (talk) 13:20, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
I think that fixing tagging section, adding further photos etc is fine, also after voting started. For example tagging section rewrite was based on meaning mismatch (see my initial vote) Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 14:37, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. Es gibt Algen, Flechten, Moose die auf "nackten Boden" wachsen. --Geri-oc (talk) 13:51, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. I'm sorry but I must vote no as per all teh reasons already given. I encourage you to keep working on this concept as it is definitely a tag we need! Good luck! --Fizzie41 (talk) 22:00, 4 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I oppose this proposal I oppose this proposal. This proposal definitely has received more attention than most. My problem is that the description is leave too much to the interpretation of the mapper. I've been in and lived in area where there is little vegetation. But to describe it as bare earth doesn't fit. Glassman (talk) 05:19, 5 August 2020 (UTC)
  • I approve this proposal I approve this proposal. --Robybully (talk) 06:25, 5 August 2020 (UTC)