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The Scottish soil resource contains a number of internationally important soil types including montane soils and peat. Podzols are the most common soil type occupying 18,480 km 2 or 24% of the land area. Peats occupy 16,940 km 2 or 22%; gleys occupy 10,780 km2 or 14% of the land area; brown earths 9,240 km 2 or 12%; montane soils 3,850 km 2or 5%; and lithosols, regosols, alluvial soils, rankers, rendzinas, calcareous soils and magnesian soils make up the remaining 4% or the land area.

Human activities have modified a large proportion of Scottish soils: Nearly 80% of the land area in Scotland is classified as agricultural and approximately 16% of the land area is forested. In the lowlands, soils have been significantly modified by activities such as forest clearance, grazing, drainage and arable farming. In the uplands, management of sheep and deer, and forestry has contributed, in varying degrees, to changes in soil characteristics.

Peatlands are an important resource in Scotland , both for their conservation and environmental value. It is estimated that 44% of UK terrestrial carbon is contained within Scottish peatlands, but they have been impacted by commercial extraction for horticulture, drainage, overgrazing, pasture improvement and forestry. Raised bogs are mainly found in the central belt and the Grampian coastal plain. (SEPA, 2001)

There is a dominance of acidic, organic matter rich soils in the west and more mineral, less acidic soils in the east. Scotland has over one million hectares of blanket bog, approximately 10% of the world’s coverage.

Soil physical damage – erosion, compaction, poaching >>