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Soil is a fundamental part of land and is key in determining what activities can be undertaken and supported on different types of land; how capable is land is sustaining different farming systems, different woodland types, valued habitats, as a sink for carbon.
The Institute has a long and successful record in capability assessment and mapping. The Land Capability for Agriculture classification – a system that classifies land into seven classes based on the degree of limitation imposed by biophysical constraints including soil - was developed in the late 1970s and is as relevant now as it has ever been. It is now being used in both a research capacity in the assessment of climate change impacts on agriculture and in policy development as agricultural subsidy moves towards area-based payments. For more information see the Land Capability for Agriculture leaflet.
We have also produced similar products such as for forestry, native woodlands and waste recycling, all of which relies on soil as a principle component of the method. Soils also provide a buffer against pollutant transfer to water and air and a number of derived products have been produced. For more information see the Indicators of Sustainability page.
This experience has placed the Institute in a strong position when so much environmental/sustainability research is being badged under Ecosystem Services; many of these products about land’s capacity to deliver certain products are in essence those services. This work is being taken forward in a number of our Themes, notably Realising Land’s Potential, where increasingly we will be looking at conflicts and complementarities between different Services provided by our soils.
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