The main objectives of this Work Package are to:

  • Assess the status of key soil properties* and any changes that have occurred.
  • Identify linkages between soil properties.
  • Attribute changes in soils to a range of different drivers (or pressures), such as management, vegetation change, climate and air pollution.
  • Interpret possible effects of change on soil function.
  • Help identify linkages between soils, vegetation and water.

*soil properties to be analysed are pH; soil organic matter (SOM); soil organic carbon (SOC); bulk density; hand texture; total-N; soil C:N (by calculation); Olsen-P; potential mineralisable N; invertebrate diversity by main taxa; metals.

More detail:

Soils have been part of Countryside Survey since its inception in 1978. The rationale for their inclusion was originally to provide many of the explanatory variables that contribute to the understanding of vegetation distribution and change. More recently soils have been recognised as a valuable resource in their own right, due to their importance for delivering a range of soil functions – such as the breakdown and recycling of plant and animal remains; plant nutrition (including food crops); degradation of pollutants, etc.

Fieldwork is based on the collection of four soil cores from each of the Survey’s 629 (1km) squares. Cores are taken from plots adjacent to past sample locations in 1978 and 1998, to ensure compatibility with previous results. Following return to the laboratory, cores are either prepared for immediate analysis or frozen for archiving.

Questions addressed by the 2007 Survey include:

  • Is there robust evidence of a decline in soil biodiversity as stated by the European Union?
  • Has recovery from acidification continued?
  • Can we confirm loss of soil carbon (as reported by Bellamy et al. 2005)?
  • Can the trend of increasing phosphorous levels in intensive grasslands be confirmed and is it matched in other habitats?
  • Can the trend of eutrophication of the countryside be detected in the soil as well as the vegetation?
  • Is the decline in atmospheric deposition reported by the Metal Deposition Network reflected in soil metal concentrations?

The outputs of this study include:

  • Maps and summary statistics of the status of soil properties, identifying where change is occurring.
  • Interpretation of trends and changes in relation to a range of different drivers.
  • Comparison of findings with outputs from other major soil monitoring schemes.