The Soil Monitoring Action Plan (MAP) is working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to collect evidence of soil erosion in Scotland. Field staff, from across the organisation, are recording soil erosion as part of their routine sampling. Other partners will be recording soil erosion using the same method in future.

All of the observations recorded in various erosion projects will be pulled together and used to get a better idea of where soil erosion is happening.


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.

However the extent and severity of soil erosion across the country is not known.


What data can we collect?

Collecting straightforward data and information on soil erosion would:

  • identify areas of Scotland where soil erosion is a problem;
  • identify what landscape and management factors are associated with areas of soil erosion;
  • enable us to 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 will allow us to improve the current erosion risk models and help us provide better advice on how to reduce the risk of erosion.


What is being done?

Current SEPA catchment work collects information on incidences of erosion and its location. Other partners are also using the SEPA data recording template to record soil erosion in their work, for example the James Hutton Institute and Scottish Water.

We also hope to look at existing data collected for other purposes 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.

The data collected as part of the soil MAP will be used in a range of work included in the Scottish Government’s current Strategic Research Programme, including the development of risk maps. This will in turn improve the evidence available to create better decision support tools – not only for Scottish Government and agencies but also for a range of land managers.

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

This page was last updated on 19 Jun 2019

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