Urbanization is an important trend in global land cover change and seriously impacts the soil resources. However, there is no clear definition for urban areas. As a result estimates of urbanization and its effects on soil resources vary widely. Urbanization can be modelled in different ways with a specific focus on environmental conditions, temporal dynamics and spatial patterns. The processes underlying urbanization require a hybrid approach that combines the different methods. Similarly, the unique conditions of the urban environment require specific surveying techniques for the soil resources. The global debate on urbanization and its environmental impacts calls for a rapid standardization of definitions and methodologies to come with proper information on rates and impacts. © Springer International Publishing AG 2018.