Maps and data detailing the soils, rocks, landscape and ecology of Devon and Cornwall to unprecedented depth and detail have been launched by the Tellus South West survey project and can be freely downloaded online.

Tellus South West map of the magnetic properties of the rocks below Devon and Cornwall.  Experts will use this data to assess the extent and value of mineral deposits below ground

Tellus South West is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and is a collaborative venture between three NERC Research Centres, the British Geological Survey, the British Antarctic Survey and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, working with Camborne School of Mines at the University of Exeter.

The new maps and data provide world-leading information on the counties’ natural resources, landscape and environment to be used by businesses, government and scientists for many years to come.

Tellus South West provides data to benefit the economy, businesses and the environment in Devon and Cornwall, expanding knowledge of geology, soils, water quality, landscape and ecosystems, helping to manage risks from natural hazards, and providing a census of the current state of the environment for forecasting and measuring future change.

One of the main aims of the project is to inform future assessment of mineral wealth and geothermal energy in the region and whether those resources can be extracted economically, creating new investment and jobs, without detrimental impacts on the environment.

The new data includes the results of two airborne surveys carried out in summer and autumn 2013. The first, an airborne geophysical survey, was carried out by an aircraft flying at very low altitude over the towns and countryside. It measured minute traces of natural magnetism and radioactivity to make maps of the properties of the rocks, soils and fluids under the skin of the Earth. The second, an airborne LiDAR survey, bounced a laser beam off the ground and vegetation to make a 3-dimensional map of the landscape, buildings and tree cover. The map is accurate to within a few centimetres and was surveyed by an aircraft flying at higher altitude and sometimes at night to cover the area quickly. The project launch also includes some early examples of maps and data about chemistry and microbes in soils and waters, and the status of natural habitats, that will be published this summer.

Pictured at the project launch on 20 May 2014 L-R: Dr Stephen Grebby, British Geological Survey; Dr Gwyn Rees, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; Dr France Gerard, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; Dr Andrew Howard, British Geological Survey; Dr Rob Griffiths,

The project launch, on 20 May 2014 in Plymouth, is due to be attended by more than 100 professionals in agriculture, local government, minerals and mining, water supply, environmental regulation and health, natural and built heritage, and geothermal energy. Scientists from the British Geological Survey and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) will demonstrate the data using maps and 3D virtual reality displays, and provide examples of how the data will be used.

Professor John Ludden, Chief Executive of the British Geological Survey said, “The Tellus South West survey has provided us with a baseline to understand geological and ecosystem evolution in the South West of England. This baseline in rock properties, soil and vegetation will provide essential information for decision-making to inform industry and governments in the future.”

Dr France Gerard of CEH said, “The Tellus SW project has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to integrate existing UK wide datasets with newly collected Tellus specific data on the terrain and surface height, soils, water and DNA. This approach will help us better characterise the ecological status and landscape of Devon and Cornwall.”

Additional information

More information on this story is available from BGS

Tellus South West project 




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