A group of soils and geo-conservation experts, recently joined by LRA director Malcolm Reeve, is working together to raise the general profile of soils as a key part of Earth Science. The aim is to encourage local geo-conservation groups and soil science experts to jointly identify sites that tell the story of their local soils in the context of geological, biological, landscape and cultural features. Eventually a network of sites would support soils education, through universities, schools, professional training or simply for interested members of the public.
Soils play a fundamental role in shaping our landscape and our lives but the UK has lost much of its professional pedological expertise. The initiative will provide a mechanism for the remaining field-experienced soil scientists to pass on their expertise and inspire the next generation. It will also provide support for the competencies developed by the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists for professional standards in soil.
Selection of soil sites is likely to be based on a number of criteria including accessibility for the population at large, educational value, naturalness, rarity and demonstration of soil diversity or fragility. Guidance is currently being finalised with the intention of launching the initiative at regional workshops expected to be held in autumn 2012.
Footnote: Soil survey and characterisation work undertaken by Land Research Associates across the UK has already indicated a number of potential opportunities for creating educational ‘soil trails’ within public access land.