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GIS Monthly Maps 2021

The Teagasc spatial analysis unit use data from a number of sources to assist farming. The sources used include the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, the Central Statistics Office, and Earth observation satellites, and remote sensing technologies. 

In creating the 'Map of the Month' the unit takes the most interesting map produced in each month to present it to a wider audience to promote discussion and debate  on the contribution of spatial analysis to Irish agriculture and food and on the specific maps produced. Maps can be viewed in interactive and pdf format. Read more about mapof the month here


March - Saint Patrick in Ireland: Names and places

Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Dr Rob O'Hara

For Saint Patrick’ Day we have a special map, dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint. The static map provides an overview of the townlands and settlements deriving their names from Saint Patrick, including a short summary of the mythology, while the interactive map is a journey to the places most famously associated with Ireland's patron saint. 

 View interactive map here  

 View map as a pdf hereSaint Patrick in Ireland: Names and places (classic static version)

Saint Patrick is associated with hundreds of places around Ireland, from towns and townlands, to hills and lakes, to street names and buildings. There are several well-known stories about Patrick, but what’s real and what’s legend? What we actually know about Patrick is sparse. He was born into a religious family in post-Roman Britain in the late fourth century, and taken to Ireland by Irish slavers when he was 16. He escaped, returning years later to proselytise the pagan Irish in the northern half of Ireland.

His writings make no reference to shamrock, nothing on snakes, no mention of Paschal Fires or fights with kings. These were all later embellishments to a narrative of Patrick written centuries later to support the hegemony of his cult and the See of Armagh above others, for example those of Bridget in Kildare or Ciaran in Clonmacnoise.

This month’s map takes us on a journey of the real-world sites associated with Patrick’s legend. The static map shows the townlands and settlements across the island of Ireland referencing Patrick in their names, and provides insights into the features these names refer, of which the majority are churches and wells

The interactive story map provides a journey to the most important places in the myth of Saint Patrick, providing insights to famous places associated with Patrick, such as Slemish, Croagh Patrick, and Armagh.

We wish you all a happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh.


February - North-facing slopes: Topography and the start of spring 

Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Dr Stuart Green

As last month's map, the February Map of the Month will be presented as both a the classic static PDF map, and an interactive story map.

 View interactive story map here 

 View map as pdf here: 

North-facing slopes: Topography and the start of spring (classic static map)

Topography describes many aspects of the physical landscape we live in. The topography is also intrinsically linked to the natural forces that shape the surface of the earth, as well as human life (as shown in an earlier Map of the Month, showing how elevation is linked to stocking density).

With regard to the natural forces, topography is both defined by, and defines how these forces interact with the land. Climate and hydrology, for example, have shaped the surface through weathering and erosion, where rivers cut deep valleys into the ground, and even mountains are slowly ground down (impressively shown in the Burren). Parts of Scandinavia are still rising, after being pushed down by the sheer weight of the glacial ice sheets of the last ice age.

At the same time, the surface influences the weather we experience, as clouds precipitate their excess water as rain as they cross mountain ranges, leaving the land beyond drier. Rivers follow the gradient of the landscape as defined by slope and shape, while at the same time imposing their influence on the land surface.

The island of Ireland was significantly defined and moulded by the last ice age, and is still rich in glacial land forms, including the rolling drumlins of the border counties, glacial lakes such as Coumshingaun Lough (Co. Waterford), glaciated valleys, and even a fjord on the coast of Co Galway. Beyond these, Ireland is also renowned for the many mountain ranges, and steep cliffs. And in many areas, topography has had a direct impact on the timing and practice of agriculture.

The specific measures of topography we are covering in this map are elevation, slope, and slope aspect (i.e. which direction the slope is exposed to).

Elevation and slope define the shape of hills and mountains. They can be high or low and steep or gentle. Elevation in particular has both a direct and indirect impact on the weather. The adiabatic gradient describes the increase or reduction in air temperature due to changes in air pressure, influenced by elevation. The changes in temperature and pressure also change the capacity of air to hold water. As air rises up a slope this capacity decreases, resulting in precipitation.

Slope also has considerable impact on the natural landscape. It determines the catchments of rivers, water retention, and influences nutrient and pollutant flows. It also impacts the ability of soils to form at a location, and determines the accessibility of landscapes to humans.

The aspect, or the cardinal direction of the slope, also has an important influence on local climate. In the northern hemisphere, north-facing slopes receive less direct exposure to the sun, therefore being generally cooler, and more humid, while south-facing slopes are warmer and drier. This has direct implications for agriculture, where south-facing slopes are generally preferable for growing a large variety of crops.

The particular example of the impact of topography on agriculture presented in this month’s map is the start of spring grazing. The driver of growth is soil temperature, and sufficient temperature is required for grass growth to occur. This is mainly seen in the change in cattle turning out date with latitude. Research has shown that the start of the grazing season in Ireland is delayed on average by a day for every 16km travelled northward.

But soil temperature is not only affected by latitude. As highlighted above, local climate is intrinsically linked to topography. Soil on higher, north-facing slopes will warm up slower, effectively slowing the start of spring. The effect has not been quantified on local scales. However, in this map we show areas with a slope greater than 5 degrees (or 8.75 %), facing northward (293 to 67 degrees), and greater than 100 m above sea level (in order to exclude micro relief in the midlands), where topography will likely have an impact on the optimal turn out dates for livestock.


January - The development of soil mapping in Ireland

Cartographers: Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Réamonn Fealy

From 2021 onwards, many of the monthly maps will also be presented in a new format. As well as the classic static format, we will be providing interactive online maps for a more engaging experience. The maps will be presented either as classic interactive web maps or, such as this month’s entry, as an ESRI StoryMap, which merge  descriptive texts, images, and interactive maps into a single story.

As these interactive offerings require a stable broadband connection to function properly, we will continue to publish accompanying static maps in the classic PDF format.

Our first interactive map (and our first map of 2021) will focus on the dvelopment of soil mapping in Ireland.

 View interactive story map here 

 View map in pdf format here:

The development of soil mapping in Ireland (classic static format)

Mapping soils has a long history in the Republic of Ireland. 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.  

About Map of the Month

In addition to undertaking geographical analyses and producing maps for research projects, the spatial analysis lab responds to ad hoc requests for contributions.  The latter may be for in-house purposes or to inform policy submissions. While dissemination is a key objective of research projects, maps produced in response to such requests rarely get a wider audience. We’ve decided that we’ll take the most interesting map we have produced in each month and to present it here to hopefully find a wider audience and promote discussion and debate on both the contribution of spatial analysis to Irish agriculture and food and on the specific maps produced.

Whilst this map can be shared please check with us before reproducing it in a publication. Many of the data sets we use are under licence with conditions attached.

For general enquiries contact Stuart Green or the author above for information on this month’s map.