Australia’s vast and complex land surface has been exposed in new ways thanks to the most comprehensive nation-wide digital maps of our soils and landscapes yet produced.
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Narrator: Throughout history the secrets of our soil and landscape have remained mostly hidden.
The need to make effective decisions critical to the economic, social and environmental future of Australia is greater than ever. Our soil and landscapes play a vital role.
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To navigate these issues, Australia needs access to better scientific data and information.
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Now there is a new way to understand our landscapes, the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia.
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The first, comprehensive, high-resolution digital maps of the country’s most important soil and landscape attributes… downloadable and free.
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This national scientific collaboration weaves together digital mapping technologies with our rich but disparate and fragmented data into a tapestry of relevant and consistent soil and landscape information.
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Built to global best-practice specifications, this digital information framework is designed to complement existing systems and to hold historical, current and future data from emerging scientific technologies.
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The Grid is the new foundation for digital soil and landscape data, encapsulating soil measurements from remote and onsite sensing, and results from laboratory analysis, with advanced modelling and mapping.
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The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia is composed of over two billion pixels covering the entire continent.
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Each pixel represents an area of 90 metres squared, roughly equivalent to a football field, and has six layers of information down to a depth of two metres below the surface.
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Dozens of attributes are included, such as organic carbon, available water capacity, clay, pH, nutrients and landscape features.
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It is now easier to draw comparisons across the landscape because the data are standardised and include estimates of reliability.
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Researchers from different fields can use and share this data meaning their work is more effective and efficient.
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The Soil and Landscape Grid is part of an Australian Government research infrastructure network for the future policy and prosperity of this country. It opens the doors for land managers, communities, and governments to answer important questions.
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How do the soils in our region shape farming and land use choices?
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Where is the best terrain for establishing native vegetation and wildlife habitats?
How might the soil impact our current road and infrastructure plans?
What will you ask?
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This is just the beginning. The first maps are now available online and free.
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All that is missing… is you, your questions, and your ideas.
How will you use the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia?
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Discover more at the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia website.
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The entire country is now represented as a digital grid with two billion ‘pixels’ that are about 90 by 90 metres, down to a depth of two metres below the surface.
The Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia, launched today at the National Soil Science Conference in Melbourne, is the result of a partnership between CSIRO, the University of Sydney, several federal, state and territory government agencies and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).
The Grid draws information from the partner agency databases weaving together both historical and current data generated from sampling, laboratory sensing, modelling and remote sensing.
The Grid also includes estimates of reliability and is designed to integrate new data in the future – even data generated by technology that has not yet been invented.
Soil and landscape attributes such as soil water, nutrients and clay, affect the sustainability of Australia’s natural resources and the profitability of sectors such as agriculture, mining and infrastructure.
CSIRO Research Director Mike Grundy said the Grid had already woven together hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of past soil and landscape science into a new ‘digital tapestry’.
"The research community has known we need better ways to make this diverse information available; new science and technology has let us make the most of the rich data we have," Mr Grundy said.
"From exploring new land use options, to making the most of water, to finding habitats for endangered native species, this technology has applications we are only just beginning to imagine."
The Grid will be beneficial to a wide range of applications and users including urban and regional planners, land managers, farming groups, scientists and engineers.
Alexandra Gartmann, CEO at Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and former CEO of Birchip Cropping Group, has worked with rural industries for almost two decades. Ms Gartmann said she was excited by the new technology.
"Knowledge is power, and our agricultural industries have a very narrow margin for error these days, so the more knowledge to reduce poor decisions, the better," Ms Gartmann said.
"Agribusiness will benefit from this technology, both at the farm scale — with data to inform production models and risk management decisions — and industry scale, as it draws together many years of past research and knowledge for future investment decisions.
"The Soil and Landscape Grid is a huge leap forward. With its national datasets and consistent and comparable data, it has huge potential for regional development, informing planning and decision-making."
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