Upland geomorphology

Geological information is captured digitally in the field

This project focuses on upland geomorphology of the Southern Highlands, and in particular the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and is linked to the National Park Authority's Wild Park 2020 Delivery Plan.

The upland environments of Scotland provide valuable ecosystem services, including water for drinking and hydroelectricity, organic soils that store carbon, and landscapes that promote recreation and tourism. Many of these natural assets are closely linked with geomorphology. Planning for their future sustainable management requires an understanding about how the landscape has naturally evolved.

Selected research

Topography and peat

Using ground penetrating radarat the SRUC Hill and Mountain Research Centre

Peatlands are important for biodiversity, geodiversity (forming important geological archives for past environmental and climate change) and carbon storage. Peat depth information is essential for the estimation of carbon stocks. However, little data currently exists for upland western Scotland. In collaboration with Scotland's Rural College Hill & Mountain Research Centre we are using new datasets and geostatistical analyses and modelling relationships between peat depth and topographic and geological co-variants, to help improve peat depth predictions.

Glacial processes

We are studying the glacial processes that have shaped the landscape of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The work promotes understanding of how our landscape evolved, provides insight into past glacier-climate relationships, and examines the link between modern hillslope and fluvial processes and former patterns of glaciation.

Fans and deltas

Composite Ground Penetrating Radar profiles through a thick fan/delta sequence in western Scotland

We are examining links between catchment properties and the fans and deltas to which they feed sediment. Periods of enhanced delta growth may be linked to catchment instability. We are currently working with researchers from Derby University who are using optically stimulated luminescence dating to constrain the timing and rate of delta/fan formation at selected sites in western Scotland.


Thick unconsolidated deposits of colluvium

The southern Highlands contain a significant number of landslips. These take the form of debris flows that continue to occur today, and larger rock slope failures that are mostly relict. We are investigating the 'conditioning' of the landscape, which influences the location of these landslips, and the processes that operate during slope failure.

Transport and infrastructure in upland landscapes

Upland environments present challenges for infrastructure. These can include the presence of thick peat, hillslopes and fracture rock. We are developing ways through which near-surface information, held and managed in geological models, can help planning for transport and linear infrastructure routes.

Superficial deposit mapping

We are collecting information about the surface materials that have been laid down or shaped during the Quaternary Period (from the last ice age to the present day), for a central area of the National Park and in the Crieff–Comrie area. These are the materials that we most commonly interact with through our use of the landscape.

A good and reliable dataset for the distribution of superficial deposits is important for reasons ranging from infrastructure projects, as it affects the 'digability' and stability of ground, to environmental concerns, including distribution of peat, to scientific purposes, since these deposits record a history of environmental change during deglaciation since the last ice age.

All mapping has been performed using digital field capture (SIGMA-Mobile platform) and are compiled using digital compilation tools (SIGMA-Desktop platform). The field survey is augmented with analysis of air photos and high-resolution digital terrain models.


Contact Andrew Finlayson for further information.