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Journal Articles Quaternaire Year : 2011

Regolith map of France


Regolith formations are surficial fragmental and unconsolidated rocks whose genesis and properties result from successive periods of surface processes. They comprise: autochthonous formations resulting directly from successive periods of surface weathering in the upper 200 metres of the Earth's crust; allochthonous formations in which the unconsolidated deposits result from weathering and transport and have not yet been affected by burial diagenesis. Regolith studies are currently at the crossroads of new scientific challenges and new environmental needs. Not only do regolith formations support a full spectrum of biological activity, including human activities, they also provide a source of extractable materials and form the substratum of soils. As such, they should be considered as a capital to be managed and protected. Historically, geological maps have focused mainly on substratum geology. Although the inclusion of regolith formations in the 1:50,000-scale geological map series of France since the 1980s has considerably increased our knowledge of France's regolith, this is still is patchy and generally insufficient for applied uses despite increasing societal pressures demanding up-to-date regolith maps. To produce an updated map at the scale of France is an ambitious project that must necessarily begin with an inventory of existing geological cartographic data relating to regolith formations. A digital two-layered regolith map of France, representing both the allochthonous and autochthonous formations, was produced in 2009 at a scale of 1:1,000,000. Each layer is accompanied by a confidence index map, and a brief descriptive note of the mapped formations (in French) is also available. A critical analysis of the two map layers reveals not only the very uneven nature of our current knowledge in terms of data quantity and quality, but also its deficiency as regards the expectations of the public authorities. Today, therefore, we require surface studies combining geology, geophysics and geochemistry in order to enhance our understanding of the natural processes governing the distribution and evolution of subsoil formations. This approach is critical for developing appropriate guidance in the use and management of natural and groundwater resources. The 2009 map can be viewed and interrogated at, and a "pdf" of the map and corresponding project report can be downloaded from


Earth Sciences

Dates and versions

hal-00679507 , version 1 (15-03-2012)



François Prognon, Frédéric Lacquement, Caroline Ricordel-Prognon, Florence Quesnel, Pierre Nehlig, et al.. Regolith map of France. Quaternaire, 2011, 22 (4), pp.357-362. ⟨10.4000/quaternaire.6060⟩. ⟨hal-00679507⟩


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