Why monitor soil?

Soil can be damaged by a number of processes (threats) caused by a variety of pressures.

The State of Scotland's Soil report concluded that the main threats to Scotland’s soils were loss of organic matter, changes in soil biodiversity, erosion, and covering soil in impermeable materials such as concrete. The report reiterated the fact that there was a lack of systematic soil monitoring in Scotland to provide the data and information required to determine the impact of these threats on soils, and the resulting effects on the wider environment, people, and the economy.

Soil monitoring in Scotland

Following the State of Scotland's Soil report, a Soil Monitoring Action Plan and Implementation Plan were developed to support the collection of soil data and make appropriate data and information available to a range of users. These recognised it was not possible to set up a one-size-fits-all monitoring programme across Scotland and identified where existing activities could provide some information and where additional work was necessary to fill the gaps.

One area identified where existing work could be built on to provide useful information was the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) priority catchment work. This was expanded to include recording evidence of soil erosion. Find out more on our soil erosion page.

More recently, pilot studies have been carried out to identify potential soil indicators to determine the vulnerability of soils to climate change and how these relate to specific land uses. Work is continuing as part of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme: Healthy Soils for a Green Recovery to explore indicators and to develop a national soil monitoring framework. Work is also ongoing to investigate how to cost-effectively monitor peat condition: Scoping a national peatland monitoring framework. All of these strands of work and how they link together are summarised in a network diagram.

Sources of soil data and information

There are a number of organisations that collect and publish data and information on soil in Scotland. These include:

Scotland's environment web publishes information on Ecosystem health indicators, including indicators for soil carbon and soil sealing.

You can find links to further information about soil monitoring in Scotland in the Useful Links page.

This page was last updated on 18 Jul 2023

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