This section includes information on land quality and soil as well as details on our distinctive and precious landscapes.
Here you will also find information on the work carried out by our Geology and Earth Science teams.
Soils are fundamental to our understanding of environmental interactions between air, land and water. They are key to supporting habitats and ecosystems, and for protecting archaeological resources.
Historic and present day activities have many impacts on the land and there is a range of policy and legislative measures to protect and manage this resource. Northern Ireland, like other parts of the UK, has a legacy of land affected by contamination, often arising from its past industrial use (e.g. shipbuilding, textiles, petrol stations, etc.) but also from natural or diffuse sources. It is not known how much land is contaminated, although DOE records estimate that there are over 11,000 sites across Northern Ireland that have had some form of previous industrial use. Dealing with this legacy will make a significant contribution in the sustainable development and use of our land resource.
For its small area, Northern Ireland has a great variety of scenic countryside which reflects its contrasting geology and topography and a long history of settlement and land use. The mosaic of prehistoric monuments, traditional farms and buildings, forest plantations and wildlife habitats all contribute to the special landscapes that are part of our culture and heritage. The legislative basis for the Department's actions is the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order (NI) 1985 (NCALO). This provides that, as well as designating the finest landscape areas as either Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or National Parks, the Department may take steps to manage them for both conservation and recreation.
The term Earth Science is taken to include both geology and geomorphology - that is the study of rocks and landforms on planet earth. The range of issues touched on by earth science within NIEA is considerable and includes work on the Earth Science Review in which we identify and protect the most important earth science localities in Northern Ireland. As the rocks and landforms form the surface on which life has developed, they have a major influence in determining the biodiversity of regions and, more directly, the physical character of the landscape.