Soil affects the diversity, number and nutritive value of the plants that grow on it, and thus it also influences the kinds and number of associated animals.

By looking closely at a landscape you can often deduce the underlying soil types. If you are lucky enough to be near a newly eroded river bank, sheep rub, track cutting, ditch, or quarry you can see the evidence even more clearly. Only a few people have studied the soils of the Cairngorms National Park, so there are still plenty of interesting discoveries to be made!

There are a variety of soil types and ages in the Park. They range from peaty gleys to podsols and from deep peat hags to shallow alpine mountain soils. The distribution of these different soils depends on the interaction of all the abiotic and biotic factors described in this section.

Compared to elsewhere in Europe, the soils of the Cairngorms National Park are quite young with soil-forming processes only being active at their present speeds for about 7500 years.

The youngest soils can be seen on bare scree or exposed rocks and have only been colonised by lichens and bacteria so far.

Older soils show profiles with recognisable horizontal banding in layers (horizons) roughly parallel to the ground surface. These bands are the result of soil-forming processes releasing and relocating material.