A new mobile app has been launched to provide farmers, land managers and the public with a quick, easy way to learn about soil erosion in Scotland and contribute their own records and images to improve our current understanding and to share them with other users of the app.
Available for iOS and Android devices, the Soil Erosion Scotland app helps users to understand and identify different types of soil erosion and makes 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 researchers behind the app, 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 but also 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 evidence of soil erosion. Collecting this information is the first critical step to being able to tackle the problem.
The James Hutton Institute holds a huge amount of data on Scotland’s soils and landscape, acquired over many years. This data has been used to develop a model and maps of the risk of erosion happening. By answering a few 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 firstname.lastname@example.org,“ Dr Lilly added.
The Soil Erosion Scotland app is free to download and use. You can get it from the Apple App Store at http://bit.ly/SoilErosion-iOS or Google Play store http://bit.ly/SoilErosion-Android. There is also a website with the equivalent tools at soilerosion.hutton.ac.uk.