Digital Soil Information System for Ireland – Scoping Study

ERTDI Report 72 - K. Daly & R. Fealy

Summary: Final report for the ERTDI-funded project 2005-S-DS-22-M1

Published: 2007

ISBN: 1-84095-242-3

Pages: 45

Filesize: 2,066 KB

Format: pdf


Soil is a multifunctional and complex medium providing ecosystem services such as the production of food, fibre and fuel, provision of habitat, nutrient cycling, contaminant transformation, water cycling and climate regulation. A number of policy and legislative developments at European level (Thematic Strategy on Soil Protection (COM(2006)231), proposed Soil Framework Directive (COM(2006)232)) have led to the requirement for harmonisation and co-ordination of soil data across Europe. In light of the demands for soil protection on a regional basis, there is a need to support policy with a harmonised soil information system in order to maintain a sustainable agro–environmental economy and fulfil policy requirements at national and European levels.

In Ireland, soil data exist in variable forms and complete coverage at 1:250,000 – the target scale identified at European level – does not exist. The terms of reference for this scoping study were to investigate the feasibility of producing a 1:250,000 digital soil map and to consider a specification for a digital soil information system which would serve as the framework technology underpinning the 1:250,000 map.

The approach included reviewing procedures and mapping methods proposed at European level, a review of soil information systems from around the world, a review of existing Irish soil data, and an expert consultation exercise with national and international soil experts.

An inventory of Irish soil data was compiled to assess their utility and application. This survey of scientists and users of soil data confirmed that most soil data are held by Teagasc. The National Soil Survey (NSS) was based in An Foras Talúntais (forerunner organisation to Teagasc) from which the main outputs were: mapping at a 1:127,560 scale for 44% of the country, General Soil Map of Ireland and National Peatland Map, both at a 1:575,000 scale. More recently, Teagasc has produced Indicative Soil and Subsoil mapping with national coverage and the National Soil Database comprising 1,310 soil samples of the upper 10 cm based on a sampling grid of 10 x 10 km.

The inventory highlighted that soil data coverage of Ireland is incomplete in both detail and extent. This has created difficulties for users of Irish soil information and has often led to inappropriate use of soil data. While soil data users would like to see the completion of mapping at 1:127,560 for Ireland, this is unlikely at this point in time due to potential costs. It is on this basis that a methodology for the development of a soil map of Ireland at a 1:250,000 scale and an associated Soil Information System (SIS) for Ireland is developed and presented in this report.

The methodology proposed is based primarily on procedures developed by the European Soil Bureau Network (Finke et al., 1998). Methodology development was also guided by an expert consultation exercise which assessed the appropriate methodology for a 1:250,000 map for Ireland given the data required and the current state of soil data that exist in Ireland.

The methodology is proposed in two phases which address (a) surveyed areas, and (b) unsurveyed areas. A list of key tasks and an estimate of costs, resources and time needed to complete the production of a 1:250,000 map is provided in addition to any risks and recommendations identified.

At the predetermined scale of 1:250,000 soilscapes will be delineated, which are defined as groups of soil bodies having former or present functional relationships, and that can be represented at 1:250,000. Soilscapes will be delineated based on the integration of parent material and various topographic indices. A programme of systematic field survey and sample analysis will be required to complete soil body description and soilscape delineation.

The proposed SIS will provide a technical infrastructure to organise soil information in Ireland and will underpin the 1:250,000 soil map development. A number of existing SISs have been reviewed and a technology platform is recommended along with core component data, and a cost estimate for construction of the Irish SIS is included. The development of the SIS for Ireland should proceed in a manner that is fully consistent with the INSPIRE Directive (COM(2004)516) principles.