Soil erosion monitoring

As part of the Soil Monitoring Action Plan implementation, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) staff collected evidence of soil erosion as part of their routine priority catchment inspections.

A soil erosion app was also developed as part of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme (2016 – 2022) to allow anyone to record incidences of soil erosion in Scotland and upload them to a website.

The data collected has been used in a range of work, including the development of risk maps. These will help improve the evidence available to create better decision support tools.

The links between all the different pieces of soil erosion work (up to 2021) with references to where you can find further information are illustrated in a soil erosion network diagram.

Why should we care?

Soil erosion is a natural process that can be accelerated by extreme weather events and / or poor land management. We care about it because it can damage both our environment and our economy.

  • It can damage soil fertility and decrease crop yields.
  • It is one of the main contributors to diffuse water pollution.
  • It can increase flood risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of carbon stored in soil, influencing climate change.

A recent study estimated the costs attributed to soil erosion in Scotland to be between £31 million and £50 million per year.

However, despite this, the extent and severity of soil erosion across the country is not systematically monitored.

What can erosion data tell us?

Collecting straightforward data and information on soil erosion helps us:

  • identify areas of Scotland where soil erosion is a problem;
  • identify what landscape and management factors are associated with areas of soil erosion;
  • identify relationships between areas of soil erosion and other environmental issues such as poor water quality.

How can we reduce the risk of soil erosion?

Erosion models predict where erosion may happen, however they need to be validated – that is we need to check that erosion is actually happening in the areas the models predict it will and isn’t happening in areas that they predict it won’t. Erosion monitoring data allows us to improve the current erosion risk models and help us provide better advice on where and how to reduce the risk of erosion.

What is being done?

Work is ongoing under the current Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme to look at how existing data, often collected for other purposes, can be used to get a better picture of the national extent of soil erosion and also allow us to compare erosion observations with modelled predictions of where erosion is likely to occur.

This page was last updated on 18 Jul 2023

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