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The development of soil mapping in Ireland


Soils are the interface between geology and the living world. In Ireland, a number of significant soil mapping campaigns have been undertaken since the late 1950s. The January Map of the Month looks at the more well known and widely used soil maps and data products produced for Ireland so far.

View the map here: The Development of Soil Mapping in Ireland (PDF)

View an interactive story map version here

Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Réamonn Fealy

View previous Maps of the Months here

From the beginning on Teagasc and its predecessor organisation An Foras Talúntais have been central to the efforts to get a comprehensive picture of the soils in Ireland. Starting with the establishment of the National Soil Survey in 1959, a substantial effort has been put into building several national, regional and county soil maps.

In this month’s map we are looking at the main outputs of soil mapping projects in Ireland. These include three main campaigns. The first campaign was the already mentioned An Foras Talúntais National Soil Survey (NSS) which was established in 1959. The aim of the NSS was to create a national soil map, as well as, and building from, detailed county maps. Based on an extensive national sampling campaign, the NSS published the first national General Soil Map for Ireland in 1969 (https://www.rte.ie/archives/2019/0723/1064698-ireland-soil-map/). The county surveys continued until 1989, when the NSS was discontinued with about 44 % of the country covered.

In 1998 the Teagasc Spatial Analysis Unit was established. As part of the Irish Forest Soils project, the first national indicative soil map was created. The map incorporated existing information from the previous soil surveys, and used remote sensing and GIS techniques applied to a wide range of factors, including topography, land use, and bedrock, to create a predictive model of soil types.

The most recent soil map was created as part of the Irish Soils Information System (SIS) which was cofounded by the EPA and Teagasc. Published in 2014, the new national soil association map was initially designed to meet EU requirements for pan-European harmonised soil mapping. It was the first national soil map at a scale of 1:250,000. Similar to the Irish Forest Soils soil map, the SIS map was based on predictive modelling based on a broad range of spatial environmental information as well as a focussed soil sampling field campaign.