Monitoring and mapping Scotland’s peat soils: legacy and development

Dr Matt Aitkenhead1

1The James Hutton Institute


Scotland’s soils are approximately one-quarter peat in area and contain a significant proportion of the UK’s environmental carbon stocks. Previous mapping and survey work provided information at the level of mapping units but did not provide information about the presence or absence of peat at specific locations. In recent years, a group of researchers at the James Hutton Institute have been working to improve our understanding of the distribution and characteristics of peat soils in Scotland. This work has been informed from a variety of sources and carried out in collaboration with other research organisations and government agencies. Here I will present several strands of work in this area and show how they have come together to provide a more detailed and policy-relevant source of information. I will also describe how these efforts have been used to inform environmental and climate change related policy in Scotland.


Soil monitoring and mapping can be achieved through a number of approaches. My work focusses on optimising sensing approaches (remote sensing, soil spectroscopy) and developing new methods (soil profile image analysis). The integration of sensory data with existing, legacy survey data allows us to carry out improved mapping of soil properties. Much of my work in this area focusses on soil carbon, particularly in organic soils, in terms of primary soil health properties (carbon, texture, bulk density, pH).

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