As part of an effort to map terrestrial ecosystems, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has generated a new classification of the lithology of surficial materials to be used in creating maps depicting standardized, terrestrial ecosystem models for the conterminous United States. The ecosystems classification used in this effort was developed by NatureServe. A biophysical stratification approach, developed for South America and now being implemented globally, was used to model the ecosystem distributions. This ecosystem mapping methodology is transparent, replicable, and rigorous. Surficial lithology strongly influences the differentiation and distribution of terrestrial ecosystems, and is one of the key input layers in this biophysical stratification.
These surficial lithology classes were derived from the USGS map 'Surficial Materials in the Conterminous United States,' which was based on texture, internal structure, thickness, and environment of deposition or formation of materials. This original map was produced from a compilation of regional surficial and bedrock geology source maps using broadly defined common map units for the purpose of providing an overview of the existing data and knowledge. For the terrestrial ecosystem effort, the 28 lithology classes of Soller and Reheis (2004) were generalized and then reclassified into a set of 17 lithologies that typically control or influence the distribution of vegetation types.