James Hutton Institute has launched a new app to provide farmers with a “quick, easy way” to learn about soil erosion in Scotland.
According to its creators, the app will contribute to farmers’ own records and improve the institute’s current understanding.
The Soil Erosion Scotland app is available for iOS and Android devices to help users understand and identify different types of soil erosion and make it possible to contribute user-generated records and images, which are then added to a shared map of sites of recorded erosion.
The iOS app also includes a map of modelled soil erosion risk and the National Soil Map of Scotland.
Dr Allan Lilly, soil scientist at the James Hutton Institute and one of the app’s researchers, said:
“Soil erosion occurs when soil particles break off from the soil surface and are moved across the land either by flowing water or by the wind.”
“We find erosion occurring across the country, in both the uplands and the lowlands. Footpath erosion can also occur in localised areas. The most obvious effect of soil erosion is the loss of soil. You may have seen soil washed out of fields and onto roads or into rivers and streams.”
“This is not just bad for farming through the loss of soil and nutrients, but the nutrients in the eroded soil can pollute our rivers, and the soil particles themselves can smother the riverbeds, damaging breeding grounds for fish. Erosion of peat soils can also cause water pollution and release the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into the air.”
App users can help researchers understand and monitor soil erosion by sending their records and photos whenever they find soil erosion evidence. According to the institute, collecting this information is the first critical step to tackling the problem.
The James Hutton Institute holds a large amount of data on Scotland’s soils and landscape, acquired over many years.
They have utilised this data to develop a model and maps of the risk of erosion happening. By answering simple questions in the app, users can help improve the understanding of where, when, and why erosion occurs and help find ways to reduce its harmful effects.
“We are keen to hear from land managers, members of the public and other agencies if you think the soil erosion recording app is useful in helping to reduce soil erosion and if you are likely to use it.”
“We are also interested in what disadvantages you see in having this app and website available to everyone. Please send responses to [email protected],“ Dr Lilly concluded.
The Soil Erosion Scotland app is free to download and use.