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Regional Landscapes of Scotland

For a relatively small country of approximately 77000 km2 , Scotland has a most remarkable diversity of landscape; mountainous terrain with both individual high peaks and broad plateau areas, lowlands broken by irregular hill masses, true lowland areas and coastal landforms ranging from spectacular cliffs to dune formations and associated links. Traditionally, the Scottish landscape has been divided into three main sectors - the Highlands and Islands, the Southern Uplands and lying between these two hill areas, the Central Lowlands. With each of these units, the layperson will associate different habitats, for example arable fields will be widespread in the Central Lowlands whilst heather moorland or coniferous woodland would be associated with the hills.

However, variation within the landscape depends on a combination of both local and regional factors, not least the geological formations, the climate, the topographic units created by the past glacial activity and the activities of man and other organisms which may influence the vegetation cover. These factors are linked through their influence on the soil, a natural resource central to all our lives and responsible for the rich natural biodiversity within the Scottish landscape.

Some soil and landscape changes are abrupt between designated regions; others are more subtle, changing imperceptibly under the influence of gradual differences in environmental factors. These, and many other observations, can allow us to interpret how the Scottish landscape has formed and has particular properties. The landforms selected for appraisal may not make much geographical sense at first glance, but they do, nevertheless, have a considerable degree of soil/landform unity

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.