Multi-purpose Soil Survey: Informing environmental management and climate change mitigation (BVI) - Round Two

Project Details


Soil mapping is needed for the BVI to achieve greater hazard mitigation and environmental protection (BVI Multi-Hazard Mitigation Resilience Framework, 2020, p.26). The Virgin Islands Climate Change Policy (2012: p.9 & 23) and National Physical Development Plan (2019: p.85 & 104) also recognise the need for soil mapping in forestry and water conservation, biodiversity and restoration, food security and disaster planning.

BVI climate change challenges include increased frequency and magnitude of hurricanes, storm surges, coastal erosion, flooding, extreme rainfall, soil erosion, landslides and debris flows; also, less-predictable growing seasons. Another challenge is from population pressures from increasing resident population and tourists: issues with water supplies, wastewater management and sites for construction (ie, areas not exposed to geohazards, with suitable soils). BVI environmental problems include soil degradation and loss of fertility, with accelerated erosion because of deforestation and land clearance for farming or construction. A problem highlighted by our partners in the BVI Environmental Health Division is sewage pollution from waste management systems that overflow in the rainy season. Information about BVI high-risk soil locations is needed for more effective environmental management or remediation of waste disposal sites. Plastic poses another potential pollution problem that this project will examine, via a pilot study to see if mangrove soils are acting as sinks for micro-plastics.

The impacts of climate change impacts and population pressures vary within the BVI because of its diverse range of bedrock and soil types (ie, its geodiversity), as well as local variations in terrain and vegetation cover. Little is known about links between the BVI’s biodiversity with its relatively unknown underlying geodiversity and soil biodiversity. This project will inform that research, as well as contributing to an international problem: a global need for more soil biodiversity data and more trained soil survey staff (Guerra et al., 2020). Information is needed about BVI geodiversity, soil types and soil biodiversity; to inform research into soil-plant linkages and ecosystem functions, as well as potential impacts from climate change.

The inclusion of soil biodiversity within soil surveys is often overlooked, despite its importance in ensuring soil function. Plants protect the topsoil from erosive forces, such as rainfall, and bind soil with their roots. Soil micro-organisms provide structure to soil, providing conditions for successful plant growth and reduce erosion or landslide hazards by binding soil particles. Some soil communities rapidly adapt to changing conditions, improving resilience to changing climatic conditions. The relationship between plants and soil is also crucial in conserving above-ground species, such as plants and the fauna that plants support. There is increasing evidence that many plants form symbiotic associations with the range of soil fauna and fungi, but that those associations are vulnerable to disturbance and can also be perturbed by invasive species. It is therefore of critical importance to examine the organisms present in soils and their function within their specific habitat. There is a lack of understanding of those relationships and a dearth of data from developing countries: this study will help to fill that knowledge gap.

Layperson's description

The lack of digital soil maps for the BVI is a critical gap in datasets needed for environmental management. This project will inform environmental managers about locations of degraded, erosive, hazardous, polluted or vulnerable soils. Mapping soils and their biodiversity will improve knowledge of geo-ecological processes, providing a baseline dataset from which climate change impacts can be assessed. Local capacity will be strengthened via a soil laboratory hosted by the BVI’s community college, with training in soil survey and analysis.
Short titleBVI Soils & Climate Resilience
Effective start/end date1/05/2231/03/24

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


  • Soil science
  • climate change
  • resilience
  • land use
  • Geohazards
  • geoinformatics


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