Communicating the value of soil resources using digital platforms

Lead Research Organisation: UK Ctr for Ecology & Hydrology fr 011219
Department Name: Soils and Land Use (Bangor)


Soils sustain life through fulfilling vital functions that support and sustain our terrestrial ecosystems, grow our food, feed, fiber and wood; regulate the atmosphere; filter water; recycle waste; preserve our heritage; act as an aesthetic and cultural resource, and provide a vital gene pool and biological resource from which health resources such as antibiotics have been extracted. There is no major international policy directive on soil, and there is increasing recognition that soils and the functions they fulfill are under threat from over exploitation and climate change. Whilst competition over the way we use soil resources is increasing between food production, conservation and other applications such as engineering. Over the past five years the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and British Geological Survey have partnered with a number of other organizations to make soils data accessible to the general public using digital information platforms. The NERC MySoil app has the unique ability to crowd-source soil data, whilst the UK Soil Observatory web data portal was discussed by the new United Nations Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils as the future style of tool for disseminating soil information.

This proposal seeks to build on this work, enhance our partnerships and develop the dialogue to drive the flow of knowledge within the agri-food, environmental, engineering, health and defence business sectors. One of this projects main objectives is to increase UK business competitiveness by enhancing the visibility and uptake of NERC data through our digital platforms, improving knowledge transfer, through targeting users with the appropriate information whilst also continuing to inform government policy.

The digital platforms were developed by consultation with major stakeholders, such as devolved Government, but now, with an army of more than 30,000 dedicated MySoil users who view and upload data, we need to know who these people are, and how we can better serve them. This knowledge will help to inform the development of future NERC products to stimulate existing and new business opportunities.

We seek to better position UK business to address the global challenges of soil degradation, for example, the Council on Foreign Relations reports that China's, 'economic rise, which has averaged around 10% annual GDP growth for the past decade, has come at the expense of its environment and public health.' China's food security is threatened by soil pollution impacting ~16% of land and ~20% of arable soil. This needs to be incorporated into national accounting so we understand the economic impacts of losses and uses. Moreover we seek to identify and understand opportunities where UK business can assist in providing information and technologies to address these issues, which are of major social and economic interest. We need to understand where the opportunities are, and how they can best be addressed with regard to soils. We believe there are new and emerging markets and applications for soils data in the engineering, health and defence sectors which we will identify and feedback into NERC.

All the information we gain, will allow us to accelerate knowledge transfer and better inform NERC and our stakeholders through updating and guiding new products and tools to stimulate social and economic wellbeing.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/N005309/1 02/08/2015 30/11/2019 £95,962
NE/N005309/2 Transfer NE/N005309/1 01/12/2019 30/03/2020 £8,061
Description We were able to identify the main stakeholders using soil information from UKSO, citizens (Gardeners), agriculture and forestry, and researchers. We now have more that 100,000 users benefiting from the UK Soil Observatory. The majority of feedback that we got was that the UKSO helps with quality improvement: making outputs or processes better and with regard to knowledge: increases understanding. Areas for development included increasing offline capability for showing or saving data.
Exploitation Route We have clear guidance on what stakeholders are looking for with regard to the UK soil Observatory platform which we are now acting on.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice