We are proactive in setting the research agenda in the areas of soil resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, from conservation to wise management and restoration of these resources.

Specific priorities include:

  • Applying ecosystem thinking to built and social capital, to increase efficiency and well being in urban and rural contexts

  • Creating, maintaining and exploiting resource inventories and monitoring systems with soil spatial informatics

  • Describing processes that expose or protect soils from threats (eg. organic matter loss, erosion, contamination, compaction, loss of biodiversity and sealing) and developing policy and better technology for soil and land management in both rural and urban areas

  • Developing spatial geosciences techniques such as digital soil mapping and pedometric methods to represent thematic soil characteristics

  • Enhancing biodiversity in systems, from wastewater treatment to urban planning

  • Providing soil education and awareness to as wide an audience as possible

  • Understanding the physical, chemical and biological processes that make up natural capital and the ecosystem services which flow from them, in the socio-economic context.

Our soil resources, biodiversity and ecosystems work ranges from the highly applied to the fundamental, and is dependent upon our close working relationship with industrial partners, government and the research community.

About our research

Our activities range from fundamental scientific enquiry to industry focused applied research to manage natural capital. Applying ecosystem principles ensures the delivery of services which in turn will transform the efficiency of modern society and human well-being.

Our research is funded through Research Councils, industry, the regulators, industrial consortia, policy makers and national and international NGOs and governments. Examples include:

• Ecosystem restoration in mining, post-agricultural and urban landscapes
• Land resources monitoring
• Mapping and modelling geohazards associated with soil types
• Soil educational and awareness material including Soil-Net, Soilscapes viewer, Soil Site Reporter, Natural Perils Dataset, soil maps and Technical Soil Bulletins
• Soil management as a part of integrated land and water management
• Spatial description of ecosystem functions and natural capital as inputs to spatial planning in rural and urban landscapes.

Our facilities

Our environmental capability is superbly supported by analytical laboratories, facilities for pilot-scale experimentation, portable equipment for field monitoring and survey, and a significant remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) capability.

  • Our Environmental Analytical Facility is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories for advanced chemical and microbiological analysis of air, water, soil, biomass and waste samples.
  • Pilot-scale and near-industrial scale testing of environmental processes can be conducted in several world-class facilities including our Soil Management Facility, Wolfson Atmospheric Laboratory, Research Greenhouses, Pilot Hall, and Experimental Research Farm.
  • We have extensive capability for field survey, remote sensing, GIS and in-situ long-term monitoring equipment for soil, water and atmosphere. As well as the capacity to coordinate big data to address issues.
  • The Land Information System (LandIS) contains soil and soil-related information for England and Wales including spatial mapping of soils at a variety of scales, as well as, corresponding soil property and agro-climatological data and is recognised by the UK Government as the definitive source of national soils information.
  • We also hold a substantial archive of soil surveys, reports and maps made overseas in a collection known as the World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue (WOSSAC).
  • Software packages such as the Catchment Information System (CatchIS) have been developed as a decision support software system for the management of water quality at the catchment scale. Embedded in a GIS framework it facilitates spatial modelling, the manipulation and analysis of associated input and output data and the visualisation of spatially-referenced outputs.

Working with us

We have a substantial network of business partners and active mechanisms of communication. We initiate new ideas and bring them to the attention of potential partners, but we also respond to industrial requests for advisory and research services.

We focus on adding value and maximising leverage from our extensive postgraduate resource base. We offer businesses access to our unique, full-scale experimental facilities including the land management research facility, and dedicated soil and water analytical laboratories.

Our work with business is delivered in a number of ways, including short term consultancies, bespoke training courses for continuing professional development, short-term (three month) postgraduate thesis projects, MSc group projects (capitalising on the multidisciplinary skills of our MSc students), three-year PhD projects, and large-scale research and industrial consortia.

Our partners include:

• Commercial associations, e.g. Agricultural Engineering Association
• Commercial companies, e.g. Produce World
• Government departments, e.g. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
• International and national grant awarding bodies, e.g. EU, UK research councils
• Local Government, e.g. Mid-Bedfordshire Council
• Not for profit organisations, e.g. WRAP, Campaign for Rural England (CPRE)
• Regulators, e.g. Environment Agency.