What is it?

What do I see on my screen?

The map shows the risk of a bare soil being eroded by water under intense or prolonged rainfall. It covers most of Scotland’s cultivated agricultural land area. Soils with mineral topsoils have been classified separately from those with organic (peaty) surface layers.

Map legend

The risk of soil erosion is shown in 3 main classes for soils with mineral topsoils: Low, Moderate or High. Each main class is divided into 3 subclasses (L1-3, M1-3 and H1-3) with the higher the number in each class indicating a greater risk of erosion within that class due to increases in slope, soil textures becoming more coarse and / or the soils becoming less able to absorb rainfall.

The risk of soil erosion for soils with organic (peaty) surfaces is also shown in 3 classes: Low, Moderate or High. The Low and Moderate classes are divided into subclasses (Li-iii and Mi–iv) with the higher the number in each risk class indicating a greater risk of erosion within that class due to increases in slope and/or the soils becoming less able to absorb rainfall.

Mineral soils

Low erosion risk: the combination of soil texture, the capacity to store rainfall and almost level to moderate slopes mean that these soils are at a low risk of erosion.
L1 - Fine textured soils with high absorption capacity on almost level slopes  L1 Fine textured soils with high absorption capacity on almost level slopes. The combination of absorption capacity soil texture and slope means that this class has not been mapped
Medium and fine textured soils with moderate to high absorption capacity on almost level to gentle slopes  L2 Medium and fine textured soils with moderate to high absorption capacity on almost level to gentle slopes
L3 - Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to moderate slopes  L3 Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to moderate slopes
Moderate erosion risk: the combination of soil texture, the capacity to store rainfall and almost level to steep slopes mean that these soils are at a moderate risk of erosion.
Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to moderately steep slopes  M1 Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to moderately steep slopes
Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to moderately steep slopes M2 Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on almost level to steep slopes
Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on gentle to steep slopes  M3 Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on gentle to steep slopes
High erosion risk: the combination of soil texture, water absorption capacity and moderate to steep slopes mean that these soils are at high risk of erosion
Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on moderate to steep slopes  H1 Coarse, medium and fine textured soils with high to low water absorption capacity on moderate to steep slopes
Coarse and medium textured soils with moderate to low water absorption capacity on moderately steep to steep slopes  H2 Coarse and medium textured soils with moderate to low water absorption capacity on moderately steep to steep slopes
Coarse textured soils with low water absorption capacity on steep slopes  H3 Coarse textured soils with low water absorption capacity on steep slopes

Organic (peaty) soils

Low erosion risk: soils with peaty surface layers that can allow a moderate degree of infiltration and on almost level to moderate slopes.
Soils with a peaty surface layer with high absorption capacity on almost level slopes  Li Soils with a peaty surface layer with high absorption capacity on almost level slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on almost level to gentle slopes  Lii Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on almost level to gentle slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on almost level to moderate slopes  Liii Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on almost level to moderate slopes
Moderate erosion risk: soils with peaty surface layers that can allow a degree of infiltration and are on gentle to steep slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on gentle to moderately steep slopes  Mi Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on gentle to moderately steep slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on moderate to steep slopes  Mii Soils with a peaty surface layer with low to high absorption capacity on moderate to steep slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with a low to moderate absorption capacity on moderately steep to steep slopes  Miii Soils with a peaty surface layer with a low to moderate absorption capacity on moderately steep to steep slopes
Soils with a peaty surface layer with a low absorption capacity on steep slopes  Miv Soils with a peaty surface layer with a low absorption capacity on steep slopes
High erosion risk: Peat soils
Peat soils on all slopes  H Peat soils on all slopes

What is included in the digital dataset?

The soil erosion risk dataset gives information on the likelihood of a bare soil being eroded under intense or prolonged rainfall. Mineral and organic soils are treated separately and are each divided into three main classes depending on the severity of the risk. These main classes are then subdivided to give more detail.

How was the map / dataset created?

The soil erosion risk depends on the soil texture and its capacity to absorb rainfall as well as the slope of the land. The slope determines how erosive overland flow could be with steeper slopes leading to faster runoff.

Each of the soils in the Soil Map of Scotland (partial cover) dataset was assessed in terms of topsoil texture and grouped in broad categories with the more coarse textured soils being most susceptible to breaking down under intense or prolonged rainfall. The soil’s ability to absorb rainfall was assessed using the soil porosity, depth to a slowly permeable layer and inherent wetness (derived from the Hydrology of Soil Types (HOST) classification (Boorman et al., 1995). The Land Cover of Scotland map (1988)  was used to identify which soils were likely to be uncultivated and have an organic topsoil from those that were likely to be cultivated or uncultivated and have a mineral topsoil. Where the LCS88 map showed a mixture of both semi-natural and cultivated land cover, the latter was taken to represent the land cover class. The slope characteristics were derived from the Ordnance Survey Open data 50m DTM, OS data © Crown copyright and database right (2017). The map is a 50m raster grid. These characteristics were combined and the values obtained assigned to a risk category.

Where the soil map units were described as complexes (that is, more than one soil type is found in the area), the precautionary principle was applied and the soil within the complex most at risk of erosion was used to describe the whole map unit.

How is it updated?

The map will be updated when new areas of digitised soil information become available

 

Using the map

What can I do?

You can click on the map, or insert a grid reference or post code, to find out the risk of soil erosion occurring at that point. You can also download the map data from the James Hutton Institute data download page.

Be aware: This map is produced at a fixed scale; zooming-in does not change the resolution of the map.

Please cite as: Lilly, A. and Baggaley N.J. 2018. Soil erosion risk map of Scotland (partial cover). James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen.

This work was partly funded by the Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government.

 

Technical and reference material

Boorman, D.B., Hollis, J.M and Lilly, A. 1995. Hydrology of soil types: a hydrologically-based classification of the soils of the United Kingdom. Institute of Hydrology Report No.126. Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford.

Lilly, A & Baggaley, N.J. 2014. Developing simple indicators to assess the role of soils in determining risks to water quality, CREW project number CD2012_42.

Lilly, A., Hudson, G., Birnie, R.V. and Horne, P.L. 2002. Inherent geomorphological risk of soil erosion by overland flow in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage Research, Survey and Monitoring Report No.183.

SSDI Metadata file

The table below shows how the soil texture, water absorption capacity and slope affect erosion risk class.

Texture Water absorption capacity Slope
      Almost level Gentle Moderate Moderately steep Steep
1-2 o 2-5 o 5-10 o 10-18 o 18-30 o
Erosion risk class
Coarse   High L3 M1 M2 M3 H1
Moderate M1 M2 M3 H1 H2
Low M2 M3 H1 H2 H3
Medium   High L2 L3 M1 M2 M3
Moderate L2 M1 M2 M3 H1
Low M1 M2 M3 H1 H2
Fine   High L1 L2 L3 M1 M2
Moderate L2 L3 M1 M2 M3
Low L3 M1 M2 M3 H1
Peaty  High Li Lii Liii Mi Mii
Moderate Lii Liii Mi Mii Miii
Low Liii Mi Mii Miii Miv
Peat Low H H H H H

This page was last updated on 18 May 2018

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