International Year of Soils 2015
The FAO have declared 2015 as International Year of Soils. More details here.
Irish Soils Information System - Phase 1 complete!
The new Irish Soils Information system (Phase 1) was successfully launched by Minister Brendan Howlin at Johnstown Castle, Wexford on Sept 15th, 2014
Find out about the Irish Soils Information System team
The Irish Soils Information System project was undertaken for EPA by scientists from Teagasc and Cranfield University. Find out more about the team here.
This website presents easy-to-use access tools to interact with the new national soil map and database for Ireland. The website has two key thematic tools:
The Soil mapping tool allows you to view the new soil map overlain on a background map of Ireland. You are able to zoom in and back out using the wheel on your mouse. Notice that as you zoom ‘in’ at a certain point, the soil polygons gain a black outline to help in using the map. Likewise the map will prevent zooming ‘in’ too far – as a way of reminding the user that the map was constructed for use at a scale of 1:250,000. Clicking and holding the mouse button also allows you to move, or pan, the map. If you then click on the map, you see in a panel to the top right of the screen information about the ‘soil association’. A soil association is a group of soil types that occur typically together, as well as an indication of the prevalence of each member soil type. Soil Associations are often named after a relevant place or location, but also have an identifying code. Thus the association ‘Seafield’, or code ‘300a’, can be seen to relate to four soil types (or ‘series’), namely Seafield (code 0300SE) (note - the Association itself is named after the lead soil series), Screen (code 0900SN), Ballyknockan (code 0660BK), and Glenbough Variant (code 0860GB). The association has a plain language definition (so for Seafield, it is a ‘Sandy stoneless drift’), as well as an indication of its national extent. For each of the constituent soil types, further information is shown, including a plain language modern definition and information on the texture and substrates. The information panel for constituent soil series shown on the map also includes a linkage through to the ‘soils guide’ tool.
Having explored the soil map, you can also use the soils guide to help learn about the soil associations, and the soil series (or types) that belong to these. The soils guide shows a panel to the left of the screen showing all the soil associations recognised on the map. Soil associations are grouped together and assigned colours – these are the same colours used on the map. Below this panel is an ‘accordion box’ dialogue allowing you to switch between the associations and soil series (soil types), and the higher categories of soil, the subgroup and great group.
All soil types belong to a SubGroup and so in turn to one of the 11 soil ‘Great Groups’. Great Groups and SubGroups are a hierarchical arrangement of soils used for taxonomical classification, representing a major achievement from the project. The soil map itself is drawn at a scale of 1:250,000. At this ‘small’ scale it is impossible to show individual soil types on the map. Indeed the techniques used to create the map operated at the association level. The soil association concept therefore represents a cartographic simplification of local soils for ease of display. The polygons on the soil map show soil associations – the groups of soil types that commonly occur together in the landscape. The database that sits behind the map allows you to ‘drill down’ into the data to see the soil types linked with a given association and their relative rankings in terms of typical extent.
To the right of the screen is detailed information about the member soil series (soil types) for each soil association. During the project, a huge number of landscape and soil pit (or profile) photographs were taken. Where present, these photographs are also presented to provide an indication of the typical conditions for each soil. You are able to click through to ‘View soil series in full’. This brings soil series page from which can be linked a ‘full data sheet’ if available. This provides a detailed page for the soil series showing details for the ‘modal’ soil representative profile that was recorded. Information is shown for the various horizons (or layers) that were recorded down through the soil profile – with depths recorded. The profile description also presents graphical representations of textural and key analytical information – allowing easy comparisons between soil series. Scrolling down the page, the values recorded in the field and laboratory for the soils are presented by horizon. Note that where present, a separate ‘PDF’ document can be downloaded for each of these soil series with detailed analytical information. Further functions may be added to allow direct access to raw data for further analysis.
Note that over time, as the scientific thinking progresses, new soil series are created, and sometimes certain soil series become discontinued, or perhaps assigned to other soil series types. The soils guide system allows you to see all soil series, current and discontinued together in one listing. Discontinued soil series are denoted with a cross through the colour type to the left of the name. Selecting a discontinued soil series opens a page with a link, where relevant, to the modern correlative soil series. In this way the tool can be used to interpret older county soil maps as well as the new national soil map.
A texture triangle tool has been developed to help users determine particle size classes from the proportions of sand, silt and clay in soil samples. The soil texture triangle tool is available here.