Geological Survey Ireland, a division of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has built Ireland’s first Open Topographic Data Viewer. The viewer will be launched by Seán Kyne, Minister for Natural Resources, on the 24th April at the annual meeting of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) being held in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

The Open Topographic Data Viewer project is a collaboration between Geological Survey Ireland (GSI), the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht’s National Monuments Service (NMS) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and The Discovery Programme: Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland within the remit of the Heritage Council. These organisations are keen to make all of their high resolution topographic data freely available.

The datasets are in the form of Digital Terrain Models and Digital Surface Models, which have been processed from LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) data. The benefit of LiDAR data and its derived high resolution topographic data are already nationally and internationally recognised with uses including highly detailed mapping of natural and man-made surface features; field-scale changes in slopes, which support agricultural practice, infrastructure planning and development, and flood assessments; habitat mapping and forestry resource assessments.

Michael MacDonagh, Chief Archaeologist in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht weclomed the collaboration and the access to this new mapping data- “The benefits of LiDAR imagery to survey, management and protection of archaeological sites is already well established. This new access to such high resolution imagery at a country-wide scale is a very exciting development. The mapping resource will be of significant benefit to archaeological research across the 3rd level sector and other organisations and heralds a new period of exciting archaeological exploration and mapping. It will assist greatly in the protection of our archaeological resource and provide accurate survey information for infrastructural providers to allow them to plan projects sustainably, complementing the various open-access archaeological survey platforms already managed by the Department.”

“Mapping our diverse and precious habitats and ecoystems, especially where they are at risk, has become more and more important,” noted Dr. Ciaran O’Keeffe from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. “This will help to ensure that we can look after the environment that supports many vital species, such as pollinators, and that enriches our own lives on a daily basis. For example, the National Parks and Wildlife Service use LiDAR data to design the restoration works to repair the hydrological balance on raised bogs, and this makes efficient project budgeting, scheduling and implementation possible. It also helps us to explain to our stakeholders what we are doing, and allay any fears in relation to potential changes in the water table in adjacent lands.”.

Shane Carey, GSI’s LiDAR data manager, highlighted that “Geological Survey Ireland use LiDAR data specifically to map geological features, which are not only interesting and feed into our publically available maps, but also provide important planning information to reduce the risk of certain hazards occurring – building houses over areas of possible geological collapse for example”. The maps are also used to identify possible flood extents around turloughs, which are a karst feature almost unique to Ireland.

However, LiDAR data are expensive and sometime difficult to acquire as it is remotely sensed from an aircraft, which can be affected by poor weather conditions. “Organisations will generally commission data collection campaigns over very focused areas for a specific project” stated the Geological Survey’s Director, Koen Verbruggen. “The aim of this viewer is to host LiDAR from all interested government and non-government organisations and to build up a mosaic of available data across the country”. He further noted that, “These high quality topographic maps are not only fascinating to look at, but making them freely available will definitely stimulate new research and improve existing products and techniques. Another important point is that having all of the data displayed at one location will prevent costly duplication of LiDAR data collection, which has already occurred in some locations”.

The topographic data from The Discovery Programme, which includes data donated by the Heritage Council and Meath County Council, Geological Survey Ireland, National Monuments Service and National Parks and Wildlife Service are now freely available to download from this online portal, which is hosted on Geological Survey Ireland’s website . A number of other organisations have expressed their interest in making their data available through the webviewer and the next update is already being planned.


Source: Geological Survey Ireland