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Agricultural activities have long been recognised as being a shaper of the rural landscape and environment which exist in Ireland today. Historically, farmers have engaged in protection of the land out of necessity to maintain their production capacity through generations. Our knowledge and appreciation of soils is continually growing however. The role of soils and the key functions they provide is increasingly being recognised and there is a new impetus from all soil users for enchanced protection of a key natural resource. This is reflected in recent times by the way in which environmental protection must be implemented at increasingly more local levels: we have now entered a new era where the maintenance of environmental sustainability is supported by legislation at a global, European scale and national level.

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