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Title: Environmental quality management for soil protection : the role of citizen science in the process
Author: Bone, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 5200
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2013
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Soil is a vital and non-renewable resource, which performs many important functions. Soil quality management is faced with a number of challenges including overcoming objections to policies for soil protection, and the resource requirements implementation will entail. Further to this, soil is often neglected, as it is not high on the public or regulatory agenda. This work has focused on collecting large and cost effective data sets and raising awareness of soil, through the use of members of the public or ‘citizen scientists’. The aim of this PhD research was to assess the challenges facing soil protection and to evaluate role of citizen science for this purpose. The emergence of policies dealing with soil degradation is likely to increase the requirement for soil quality assessment. Despite this, there remains an issue with soil protection policy, which has not been implemented to the same extent as for water and air policy. To increase understanding of these issues, this work evaluated soil quality, and the reservations which it faces. Findings reveal the need for a method of assessment that is not soil function dependent, but uses a number of cross-functional indicators. Examination of the policy drivers for water and air highlight the importance of moving toward more holistic management and protection of soil. To help to address challenges for soil protection policy, this work proposes a set of indicators that can be collected by members of the public, and which can be used to direct further detailed soil quality assessment. With the need for evidence based policy, and recognition that involving the public in environmental monitoring is an effective way of increasing understanding and commitment, there has been growing interest in public surveys. The development of a mass public soil survey, the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Soil and Earthworm Survey, is presented as an example of public participation in soil surveys. This approach can deliver improvements in the quality of the evidence collected and provide effective public involvement in policymaking and implementation, on top of direct educational benefits. Such data from the public have been analysed to provide information about soils and earthworm distributions, and has indicated apparent differences in earthworm abundance across England. Investigation of the reliability of patterns shows the importance of following up apparent findings from public data with more detailed investigation. Examination of patterns in public data provided important information on threats to soil, and has allowed further examination of the main environmental drivers of earthworm distribution, as well as distribution and fate of contaminants. The work highlights the important role to be played by members of the public in the move toward a holistic and harmonised protection of soil resources, with great value in public participation in data collection, education and policy formation.
Supervisor: Voulvoulis, Nick Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ; Big Lottery Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral