Digital Geology - Artificial (Man-made) theme

Artificial example

Artificial ground is a term used by BGS for those areas where the ground surface has been significantly modified by human activity. Whilst artificial or man-made ground is not part of the 'real geology' of bedrock and superficial deposits it does affect them and needs recording because the near surface ground conditions are so important to human activities and economic development.

For DiGMapGB and related purposes, artificial ground information is placed in a separate theme. It may be regarded, in other uses in BGS and elsewhere, as part of the superficial geology that includes both man-made and natural deposits. Further information on artificial ground can be found in the BGS Rock Classification Scheme Volume 4.

The artificial ground theme includes:

  • Made ground — man-made deposits such as embankments and spoil heaps on the natural ground surface.
  • Worked ground — areas where the ground has been cut away such as quarries and road cuttings.
  • Infilled ground — areas where the ground has been cut away then wholly or partially backfilled.
  • Landscaped ground — areas where the surface has been reshaped.
  • Disturbed ground — areas of ill-defined shallow or near surface mineral workings where it is impracticable to map made and worked ground separately.

Artificial ground was not formerly mapped by BGS. It became a common requirement of the applied geological mapping projects in the 1980s and is now routinely recorded but information is only available for parts of the country. It is classified primarily on its mode of origin, which is usually apparent from the landform or the changes made to the topography.

Infilled ground can also be classified by its composition into types of fill such as inert waste, ash or slag. This is not usually practicable in routine mapping as many landfills are mixed deposits with inadequate records of their actual content.

Caution must be exercised using the artificial theme, as it may become dated very rapidly. BGS cannot monitor every pit and landfill site in the country recording changes from day to day. It is inevitable that many maps of artificial ground will be out-of-date. Also, many urban areas are built on artificial ground but it is impracticable to unravel the details in routine mapping.