5.12 - Gelisols

Gelisols are soils with permafrost within 2 meters of the surface. These soils generally have limited profile development. Most of the soil forming processes in these soils occur near the surface, sometimes resulting in significant accumulation of organic matter. Large areas of this soil occur in the Northern regions of Russia, Canada, and Alaska. These areas become boggy wetlands in the summer, and support large numbers of migratory birds and grazing mammals. The permafrost of Gelisols tends to become unstable (melt) if disturbed, leading to a waterlogged soil condition that poses problems for engineering uses.

Soil order - Gelisols. Image courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Profile example - Gelisol Series. Image courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Gelisol Landscape

USDA details

More information from the University of Idaho



Key Characteristics:  Gelisols

  • Soils with frozen subsoils (permafrost)
  • Limited profile development
  • Surface accumulations of soil organic matter
  • Productivity limited by short growing season
  • Extensive in high latitudes
  • Extent of world ice-free land area: 9%

U.S. Order Distribution Map for Gelisols. Image courtesy of USDA-NRCS

Further information from the NRCS



The soil forming factor most dominant in the formation of Gelisol soils is:

Looks Good! Correct: Gelisols most often occur at high latitudes where the warm season is short and the winters cold and long.