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Soil surveying and monitoring

This page is no longer updated. The information presented here formed part of our previous areas of research. This has included research carried out on behalf of our research partners, commerical contracts and also the Scottish Goverment's Strategic research programme during the period 2011 - 2016.

Scottish Goverment LogoWe have left these pages here to provide background information on our previous areas of research. Further details on the RESAS strategic programme of research (2016-21) will be made available.

Further details on why we archive pages can be found on the following page.

Photograph of soil being sampled
One of the ways we can look after out soils is to monitor their heath and their functions.

Soils are very slow to develop and are generally considered to be a non-renewable resource. At the same time, we demand a great deal from our soil; we use it to grow crops, timber, grow grass to feed our cattle and sheep, we build our houses and roads on it, we expect it to store water, filter harmful pollutants. These activities can put a strain on soils and they can become damaged or even eroded.

One of the ways we can look after out soils is to monitor their heath and their functions so that we can get an early indication if the soil is damaged or in an unhealthy state. There are many different ways to monitor soils and there are many different properties that we can assess. However, some of the key soil properties are soil organic matter content, soil pH, nutrient supply and potentially toxic elements. These properties are important due to their influence on a wide range of other more complex soil properties and can be referred to as ‘canary indicators’.

At The James Hutton Institute we have been investigating ways to effectively monitor soils and to establish which soil properties are the most useful to give us an early indication of detrimental changes. We have recently resampled soils at sites throughout Scotland that we visited over 20 years ago in an effort to determine the best way to sample the soil, the best indicators of change, the best analyses to use and the number of samples needed. We also have a number of long term sites which we can revisit and take soils samples at regular intervals, some of which are part of a wider UK network. Read more on the ECN website.  

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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.