This report was commissioned to analyse the indicators available to monitor Scotland’s soil health. Soil health is essential: the benefits range from food production to filtering water, reducing flood risk and regulating climate.

The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP) identifies soil health as a priority research area, following concerns over a perceived lack of data or gaps in understanding Scotland’s soils. This study summarises previous work on Scottish soils, explores existing datasets, and identifies metrics to support the monitoring of soil health and the vulnerability of Scottish soils to climate change.

 Key findings
  • Scotland has a significant, world-leading soil knowledge base and a broad data resource portfolio. However, the existing evidence base does not contain tools identified as appropriate for monitoring change in Scottish soils.
  • Thirteen indicators with potential to measure soil vulnerability to climate change in all soil types were identified.
  • A total of 41 existing datasets that contain baseline and/or resurvey data for Scottish soils have been identified. Resampling of some of these long-term national datasets has potential to support further development of the 13 identified indicators (Table A10).
  • A critical knowledge gap exists regarding the dependencies of the 13 identified indicators (i.e. factors they are reliant on), their interactions and hence whether a reduced core set of indicators could be identified at a future stage. This is compounded with critical gaps in our understanding of the interactions between soil properties. This knowledge gap has a major impact on soil biological diversity and therefore functioning of the soil system.
  • No single indicator measures the full range of relevant properties encompassing all soils or climatic conditions.