We maintain the Australian National Soil Archive, which provides facilities and protocols for conserving the long-term, scientific value of soil specimens and associated soil data.
The archive is a valuable resource for a range of soil studies, including carbon assessments, fertiliser and erosion studies and to study changes in soil condition over time.
Archived soil material and data is searchable and accessible with protocols in place which outline standards and processes for sample submission and use. With permission, users can access a large amount of existing soil data or re-analyse soil specimens for their own needs. New analysis results are continually added to the archive database.
The oldest specimens in the archive date back to 1924 before widespread artificial fertiliser and herbicide application started, providing a useful baseline of soil properties. Most of the sites from which specimens have been collected are in agricultural regions, but in recent years more sites from non-agricultural regions have been uploaded.
A valuable resource for research
Since the Australian National Soil Archive was established in 2003, over 40,000 archived soil specimens have been used for further studies.
Fieldwork to study soil properties can be labour intensive and expensive. Providing archived soil specimens with soil chemistry and profile descriptions enables researcher to re-analyse soils more cost-effectively. Sometimes this means using new methods, such as infra-red spectroscopy.
The Australian National Soil Archive supports many diverse research projects, including:
- Mapping soil carbon stocks across Australia using new infrared scanning technology (based on 43,000 specimens)
- Studying soil property changes over time by re-analysis of South Australian acid sulfate soils (using specimens from the 1920s)
- Examining the potential of soil analysis as a forensic method (by the Australian Federal Police)
- Rapid assessment of the distribution of soils with toxic levels of boron (a CSIRO study)
- Evaluation of the utility of Pb isotopes as tracers by studying Australian dust sources to the Pacific Ocean
- Calibrating new soil property measuring instruments.
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Building on the collection
The Australian National Soil Archive collection is steadily growing in the areas of soil data, soil specimens archived and user requests. It provides a well-managed, long-term repository for soil specimens from large national research programs.
New material is added to the collection through CSIRO research projects and submissions from other research and government organisations. Some recent submissions include:
- 1,200 soil specimens collected from 300 sites as part the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment conducted from 2019-2021
- 250 specimens from ecological research studies in WA from the 2010s
- 3,500 specimens from the Torrens Valley study conducted in the early 1970s.