ARCHIVE: Use of remote sensing to monitor soil indicators

Defra is considering the use of remote sensing to monitor soil.


Soil policy development will need to be informed by good quality information on soil status and conditions, and changes in these over time.

Remote sensing or earth observation has long been used for terrestrial monitoring, including soil monitoring, and may offer a means to obtain good quality information, cost-efficiently.

Previous Defra research has used remote observation (aerial photography) to monitor soil erosion (SP0407).

Review of potential use of remote sensing to monitor soil

A review was undertaken, by NSRI (2004), of the potential to monitor soil indicators using remote sensing:

This examined the ability of remote sensing techniques to monitor the 67 indicators proposed in the Loveland et al report.

It was found that, in general, remote sensing techniques:

  • Were most useful when considering indicators that relate to soil quantity (extent)
  • Have only a limited usefulness for those indicators that relate to soil condition (quality)

Two main candidate indicators for remote monitoring were identified: soil sealing and erosion.

Soil sealing is defined as the covering of the soil surface with a layer of impervious material or changing the nature of the soil so that it behaves as an impermeable medium.

Current work

Soil sealing is a new and growing area of interest with links to planning and monitoring soil use in the built environment. Defra and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are funding a project on the application of remote sensing to identify and measure changes in the area of soil prevented from carrying out functions by sealing (SP0541)

Page last modified: 30 March 2006
Page published: 9 March 2005