The soil of Arctic areas is generally said to be Tundra. Recent research indicates that the zonal diagram depicting a Podzol-Tundra-firn sequence northward from the fringes of the northern forest does not realistically reflect physical conditions in the northern extremities of ice-free land. These extremities are primarily mantled with Polar Desert soils.
The Polar Desert soils are at times only sparsely colonized by vascular plants. They are typical of regions of low temperature, rather dry soil conditions, mildly acid to alkaline in reaction with salt efflorescences.
In the western hemisphere, all land north of Viscount Melville and Lancaster sounds falls into the geographical area of Polar Desert soils, and so do the ice-free portions of Greenland north of 78° to 80° N. The Franklin district of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is rather a transition zone between Tundra soil and Polar Desert soil.
In the eastern hemisphere, portions of Svalbard lie within the Polar Desert soil area. On the other hand, Novaya Zemlya, Savernaya Zemlya, Novo Sibirskie, Wrangel Islands, and portions of the Northern Tamal and Taimyr peninsulas constitute more of a transition zone between Tundra and true Polar Desert. The extension of this transition zone has been outlined by Gerasimov in 1956.
Geologists such as Cailleux, Taylor, Troll, and Washburn have contributed substantially to the study of Arctic soils through their work on physical and chemical weathering, ground patterns, and perennially frozen ground.
A substantial effort should be made by scientists o t unify soil nomenclature in the Arctic or at least to establish equivalent terminology. Fundamental studies on Arctic soil are long overdue with cartography not one of the least important.