Publication - Research and analysis

Soil organic carbon sequestration: scoping study

Published: 20 Dec 2021

A report evaluating the ability of existing datasets to answer questions regarding the status of organic carbon in Scottish soils.

Soil organic carbon sequestration: scoping study
9 Online tools to visualise SOC

9 Online tools to visualise SOC

There are existing online tools designed to help manage soil carbon, for example, one tool hosted by the Hutton, ‘Topsoil organic matter comparison tool’ ( shows the typical organic matter content of soil at any location in Scotland. This tool was derived from SIfSS (‘Soil Indicators for Scottish Soils’ - also hosted by the Hutton. Both use summary data (for example, averages, minimum and maximum) derived from the Representative Soil Profile dataset and the underlying National Soil Map to identify the individual soil types. Users can zoom in to identify individual fields. These tools allow users to input their own, measured SOC or SOM values and see how it compares to the national average for that soil type. Some of the disadvantages of these tools are that they rely on averaged data that were collected over a long period of time and the scale of the underlying map (1:250 000). There is online guidance to help users select the correct soil type at any locality.

Ways to improve this dataset would be to use the Soil Map of Scotland (partial cover) which is based on 1:25 000 scale soil maps and shows more detail in terms of the soil types and their distribution. Digitising of this map series is still underway as is the collation of soil property data (including SOC concentrations) for each soil type. However, a hybrid map showing the improved resolution data, where available, combined with the national cover map would be an interim measure.

As well as SIfSS and the Topsoil organic matter comparison tool, Scotland’s Soils Website ( also shows a range of soil properties including SOC, SOM and LoI for the soils shown on the National Soil Map of Scotland (1:250 000). Users can also zoom in to this dataset to identify individual areas of interest.

The James Hutton Institute, in partnership with Quality Meat Scotland, has produced a smart phone app called SOCiT (Soil Organic Carbon information) that provides farmers with a quick, cost-effective source of information about the organic matter content of their soil. After digging a shallow hole to expose the topsoil, a user can take a picture of the soil with a smart phone or tablet. The app uses the smart phone or tablet’s GPS to record the user’s position. within the photograph of the soil. This information is then sent to the Hutton servers where the SOC concentration is estimated. This estimate is based on a statistical model that uses data from the Representative Soil Profile Dataset combined with the topsoil colour from the photograph.

Although not confined to SOC and aimed at evaluating the impact of woodland expansion on above and below ground SOC, the online tool ‘Mapping net change in carbon from afforestation in Scotland’ is an interactive tool where different trees species and management options can be explored. The tool shows the modelled change in net carbon over a 100-year period.