Back to top

As a forestry professional, knowing about your soil and understanding its properties will help you plan and manage your forest more effectively. This webpage will help you find the soil data and information you need.


Collecting soil data

Forest owners and managers need to gather soils data to comply with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS). Data on soils is also needed to apply for consent or grant support from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).

For an initial assessment of the soil on a site, you can find useful background information from the maps available on this web site. The national maps are mostly at a scale of 1:250,000. This level of information could be useful for broad, pre-application discussions with a Conservancy and key stakeholders, for example.

However, forest planning and management decisions require more detailed information. Forest plans submitted to FCS need to be mapped at a scale of 1:10,000, and because publicly-available soil maps are often not at this scale it is highly likely that you will need to carry out a site-based soil survey and possibly an analysis of soil samples to get sufficiently accurate data. This will tell you how soil types change across a site and, once done, the data collected will serve you well in making good decisions for your land.

A straightforward soil survey method is described in ‘Guidance for undertaking a soil survey for woodland creation and management’. This will be published soon.


Soil data and information required to comply with the UKFS

The UKFS sets out the importance of good soil management in forests and how it should be undertaken to help achieve good tree growth and sustainable forests. All forest and woodland managers must comply with the UKFS by addressing those factors most important for forest soils: acidification, contamination, compaction, disturbance, erosion, fertility and organic matter.

The UKFS sets out a number of guidelines on how to comply with its Requirements for soil. Table 1 provides links to soil data and information that can help implement these Requirements and guidelines at different stages of the forest management cycle. In many cases, field-level assessment is needed too. Table 1 only includes those UKFS Soil requirements that can be informed by existing maps and their associated data.


Soil data and information to assess a site for woodland creation

Table 2 provides links to soil related maps that can provide information when assessing a site for a woodland creation proposal. It also highlights where field-level assessment is more appropriate. Table 2 only includes the information that can be gained from publicly available maps and data.

Woodland creation applications submitted to FCS should refer to the FC soil classification system. This system is used widely in forest soil survey work and is explained in the FC Field Guide ‘The identification of soils for forest management’. A table to help you translate data from the Soil Survey of Scotland classification into the FC classification system is given in ‘FC soil codes translation table’.

Guidance on managing specific forest soils (where available) is on the FCS soil and water management web page.


Using soils data to inform the response of a forest to climate change

In order to comply with the UKFS Requirements for forests and climate change, forest managers should:

  • consider how forests contribute to mitigating climate change by capturing and storing carbon;
  • plan and manage forests to enhance their resilience and mitigate the risks posed from climate change.

Soils data can help with this.

Managing the carbon in forest soil is important since there might be more carbon stored here than in the tree biomass, especially on peat. Data on where peat lies, and at what depth, will help determine if woodland creation or restocking is appropriate, and help identify where action should be taken to maintain soil fertility and soil carbon.

Accurate soils data will help plan and manage a forest to increase its resilience to the risks posed by climate change. Climate change projections suggest that, on some sites and for some species, growing conditions will become more challenging, especially where summer drought coincides with free-draining soils. The ESC-DSS tool takes into account climate change projections for 2050 and 2080, so it is important that accurate soils data is used.

More guidance for forest managers is on the FCS webpage on climate change.

This page was last updated on 12 Sep 2017

  Adobe Acrobat Reader is the free, trusted leader for reliably viewing, annotating and signing PDFs.
Download Adobe Acrobat Reader