Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

GIS Monthly Maps 2023

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 map of the month here.


January - Laser Scanning on the Signpost Farms

Cartographers:  Dr Stuart Green & Dr Jesko Zimmermann

View map here: Map of the Month - January 2023 LIDAR

The Signpost programme is a multi-annual campaign to lead climate action by all Irish farmers. The programme aims to achieve early progress in reducing gaseous emissions from Irish agriculture and also improve water quality, maintain and in some cases improving biodiversity, reduce costs, and create more profitable and sustainable farming enterprises.

There is a network of 110 farmers acting as demonstration farms for best practice in these areas. To see how the farms perform following implementation of measures, we need a benchmark of how the farms are today. The farms are being extensively surveyed for all aspects of the enterprise, habitats, economics, farm performance and more. One of the tools being used on the farms is Light Distance and Ranging (LIDAR) surveys. LIDAR is a laser scanning technology that gives an accurate 3D picture of each farm. We can use this 3D data to estimate the carbon stored in hedgerows and trees, and we use it to show overland flow of water on the farm - highlighting very precisely points on the farms that might be potential hotspots for pollution.

February - Forests and Woodlands in our townland names

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann

View interctive map here: Forests and woodlands in our townland names

Ireland was once covered in vast forests. It is said that a squirrel could travel all the way from east to west without once touching the ground. While millenia of human activity have reduced the cover to approximately 11%, the memory of these forests continues to exist in our townland names. 

In this month's map we are looking at references to forests, woodlands, and trees in the Irish names of townlands. 

March - SafeHabitus

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann & Dr David Meredith

View map here: Map of the Month March 2023

March's map conveys a wide range of information about the recently launched SafeHabitus project.

SafeHabitus is a Horizon Europe project led by David Meredith in Teagasc. Together with collaborates from all across Europe, SafeHabitus aims at improving farm and farmers' safety. The map was used at the kick off event and conveys in very simple terms where the project is acting, and what the aims are. 

April - Cool in townland names

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann

View map here: Cool in townland names

Irish townlands took their names from a range of different inspirations. These could be names of significant people, natural features, or human activities. As shown in previous maps, mapping such names may provide insights in the historical landscape. In some cases, the origins of the name are still unclear, or other interpretations have been suggested. In this map, created in collaboration of Prof. em. Willy J. Smith of UCC, we looked at the term Cool, an anglicised version of Cúil or Chúil. It is generally translated as corner or nook (see logainm.ie) but a suggested interpretation is a boundary or border. In order assess the possibility we mapped all townlands containing the term Cool over the old civil parish and barony boundaries. While the initial survey does not suggest a concentration at borders, the work is still ongoing.

May - Land Cover Change in Co. Galway 1995-2020

Cartographers:  Dr Stuart Green & Ryan Mulder

View map here: Land Cover Change in Co. Galway 1995-2020

Our Terrain AI project recently hosted an Intern, Ryan Mulder, from Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

The Aquinas College Irish Studies program has been bringing students to Tullycross Co. Galway for 50 years, hosted by Connemara West. With this history in mind, Ryan used GIS and photo-interpretation to look at how land cover has changed since 1995 by virtually revisiting point observations of land cover form 1995 that were collected as part of an earlier Soils Project in Teagasc.

The most common change is into scrub and young forestry, and the presence of new buildings. But the table below shows a more detailed analysis of the changes.

This matrix shows how things have changed. The columns represent the 1995 land cover, the rows the 2020 land cover.

How to read this matrix: There were 512 points in total observed across both years. To look at a single class, let us examine the “wet grass” land cover type. In 1995 67 points were observed to be “wet grassland” (totals along the bottom row), but in 2020 only 40 were seen to be “wet grassland” (final column) – the table shows us what happened – looking down the “wet grassland” column (the 1995 observations)- we can see that in 2020, one point became “rocky”- this is complex land cover where scree and rock are visible within vegetation – so it’s a sign perhaps that this point became eroded over time. 12 points moved into the “dry Grass” category – this is a sign that the land at these points was improved. 2 points moved into the bog and heath class, so perhaps they were used less and are reverting to a natural cover. 5 are mature forest and 10 are immature forest now - a sign of increased afforestation in the period. The value on the diagonal is 37, this means that 37 out of the 67 points remained “wet grassland” between 1995 and 2020 (this is true for all the diagonal values). But the 2020 total is 40 – this means that 3 new points became “wet grassland” and looking across the row we can 2 that were classified as built (which included gardens ) are now “wet grassland”, perhaps abandoned property? And 1 that was “dry grassland” is now “wet grassland”.

In total if we add up all the diagonal totals we get 427 points that haven’t changed, which is 85 points have changed or 16% change in land covers between 1995 and 2020.

June - Cultural Diversity in Teagasc

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann 

View map here: Nationality of Walsh Scholars


The Walsh Scholarships Programme is Teagasc's postgraduate development programme, with currently 210 students pursuing PhD and MSc degrees.

The programme is called Walsh Scholarships, to commemorate the late Dr Tom Walsh, first Director of both the Agricultural Research Institute and the National Advisory and Training Service, which were merged to form Teagasc, and a prime mover in developing agricultural and food research in Ireland.

As part of the Teagasc Diversity and Inclusion month 2023, we produced a map to show how culturally diverse our Walsh Scholarships Programme is. 41 countries of the world are currently represented among Teagasc's Walsh Scholars, or 21 percent of all nationalities.

More than half (60%) of our Scholars are not from Ireland and many, as you can see in the map, are a very long way from home.

Many thanks to Hillary King and Dr Erin O'Rourke for providing the data.


July - Livestock Unit (LSU) trends 2000, 2010 & 2020

Cartographers:  Dr Stuart Green 

View map here: MOM July 2023


Over the past 20 years livestock numbers (dairy, beef and sheep) have changed a lot. The national story is familiar: between 2000 and 2010 animal numbers on farms fell, driven by an increase in off-farm employment opportunities as the economy boomed. After the crash; in the following decade animal numbers recovered and then increased above the 2000 level driven by government policy and the abolition of the EU Dairy Quota system.

Average LSU per ED
Year 2000 2010 2020
Class 1 2,149 1,760 2,255
Class 2 2,100 1,707 1,480
Class 3 1,929 2,305 2,821
Class 4 2,034 2,553 2,089
State total LSU 5.941,305 5,787,398 6,320,811

However that national picture hides significant regional variation- some areas increased LSU between 2000 & 2010 and some areas decreased post 2010. Here, using CSO census of Ag data from the periods, 2000, 2010 and 2020 we show the 4 trends visible in the figures at the scale of electoral district.

Class 1 & 2 areas LSU dropped between 2000 and 2010 and in Class 1 (light blue) numbers increased in the following decade but for Class 2 (dark blue) the numbers post 2010 continued to decline up to 2020. Classes 3 & 4 bucked the national trend and LSU increased in these areas between 2000 and 2010 and for Class 3 (light orange) they continued to increase up to 2020 but for Class 4 the numbers dropped down after 2010.

The map shows a lot of variation between EDs but there is a broad geographic pattern of blue areas in the North and West (where LSU declined between 2000 and 2010) and orange areas in the South and East where LSU increased between 2000 & 2010. Livestock Units (LSU) are not the same as counting animals and changes in LSU values can also be down to changes in the composition of herds and types of animal as well as the total number- we'll explore this in coming months.


August- Farm Level Habitat Scores

Cartographers:  Dr Stuart Green 

View map here: MOM August 2023


A new land cover map from the OSI allows us to map the habitats and land covers on farms at incredible detail (the smallest area is 0.1ha). This is proving to be a valuable resource in understanding the environmental and ecological geography of Irish farms. Here we have extracted the land cover information for all (128,000) farms and calculated an area based score for habitat value for each farm.

Using expert derived weights from the SmartAgriHub project we multiply the area of each habitat (in ha) by its weighting and add them up, we then divide by total area of the farm (so a small farm with 2ha of habitats gets a bigger score than a large farm with 2ha of habitats). To show the broad geography we have clustered the scores in quintiles (i.e 20% of farms with the lowest score are grey and then in 20% increases until the 20% of farms with the highest scores are in green).

The pattern revealed is a familiar one of higher habitat value to the north and west and lower the south and east, but the real value is now we can zoom into farm level and local landscapes to see the patterns and relationships. The map is published here at 1km raster scale : the inset reveals the level of detail in the data. There is still a lot to explore using this dataset from the OSI; Issues around, for example, commonage, non-farmed land, and owned vs rented land will be explored in the coming months.


September - Hedgerows v Roads

Cartographers:  Dr Stuart Green 

View map here: MOM September 23 


One of the never ending concerns of Irish geography is the distinction between rural and urban. Lots of definitions exist based on physical, economic and social geography. Thinking of rural or urban features- two networks come to mind- roads and hedgerows. Both are constructed but one brings rural landscapes to mind; the other makes you think of built up areas. Here we present the ratio of the area covered, at 1km grid scale, of hedgerows and roads from the National Landcover Map (technically roads are described as "ways" in the NLCM). As the 1km cells get more blue, then there are more roads than hedgerows - until deep blue cells only have roads present. As the cells get more orange- hedgerows dominate over roads- until the dark orange cells show areas where there are only hedgerows present. The grey cells have neither hedgerow or road.
Town and cities are picked out easily but we can see large areas of the western seaboard are dominated by roads (small county lanes) because hedgerows are not part of upland landscapes and stonewalls are used in many areas of the country. We can see that the peculiar nature of the Irish roads network, coupled with geology and landuse practice means that comparing the two network densities doesn't really work as map of rural vs urban.


October - Bioeconomy Ireland Week 2023

As part of the Bioeconomy Ireland Week 2023 (16th to 22nd October), Teagasc, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, The SFI BioOrbic Research Centre, Munster Technological University, and the University of Galway have produced a set of interactive StoryMaps. The maps provide information on the events of the week, but also showcase national and international research in the field of bioeconomy.

The maps an be found here: 

Bioeconomy Ireland Week 2023 Map Compilation 


November - The interactive NASCO map

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann

The National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (NASCO) is a network of Eddy Covariance towers covering Ireland. Eddy Covariance is a technique using micrometeorological techniques to measure fluxes of atmospheric gasses. Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), establishment is currently underway and will include 32 Eddy Covariance Flux Towers located on benchmark sites including agricultural grasslands, mineral soils and peatlands. For more information on NASCO, check the homepage here.

Interactive NASCO map

As part of the NASCO, we created an interactive map of indicative tower positions, including information on land cover and the sensor setup. The map is embedded in the NASCO hompage. It is important to notice that the locations have been intentially altered, and the map scale has been limited to protect the tower sites.

December - Unleashing the power of maps

Cartographers:  Dr Jesko Zimmermann

View map here: Unleashing the power of maps 


In a new paper published in Ecological Indicators researchers from Trinity College Dublin and Teagasc collaborated to develop novel AI methods to read wetland symbology from the First Edition OS historic 6" maps. 

Identifying locations and extent of historic wetlands is a challenging task. Data from the time are sparse, and as such researchers need to use proxys such as soil characteristics and the existence of drainage networks to estimate where wetlands used to exists. One source from the time are the historic OS 6" and 25" maps which were created in the late 19th and early 20th century. The maps are a reasonably accurate representation of the historic Irish landscape and, importantly, include symbology demarking wetlands. While the maps have been scanned and are available in a georeferenced format (i.e. allowing to pinpoint locations based on geographic coordinate systems), the symbology has not been digitised, which means different land cover classes cannot be queried or analysed. 

While manually digitising the outlines by drawing polygons is possible, doing so for the whole country would be a long, arduous, and cost intensive task. Fortunately, computer science has taken a massive leap in recent years and algorithms to automatically identify and map specified symbologies are now available. In this study Richa Marwaha and Matthew Saunders (TCD), together with Jesko Zimmermann, Rob O'Hara and Stuart Green (Tegasc) have developed a Convolutional Neural Network which successfully identifies the wetlands in the historic OS First Edition 6" map, and applied it to the Barrow catchement as an example area. 

This month's map shows the old wetland symbology, provides an example of a mapped wetland, and shows the extent of wetlands as read from the historic map in the example area of the Barrow catchment.  


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.