Australian Soils

Soil is one of Australia’s most valuable assets.

Let’s celebrate the vital role of soil and water this World Soil Day!

 

View our events page to learn what SSA events are on this World Soil Day. Or, check out the Worldwide events on the UN website.

Soils are one of our most valuable resources in Australia, supporting our food, fibre and water supplies.

  • Soil and water provide the foundation for food production, ecosystems, and human well-being. Recognising their invaluable roles, we can take proactive measures to safeguard these resources for future generations.
  • The health of the soil and the quality and availability of water are interconnected.
  • Implementing sustainable soil management practices enhances water availability for agriculture. Healthy soils, enriched with organic matter, play a crucial role in regulating water retention and availability.
  • Improper soil and water management practices affect soil erosion, soil biodiversity, soil fertility, and water quality and quantity.
  • Soil and water conservation contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Improved soil and water management improves the land’s capacity to withstand extreme climate events such as droughts, floods and sand/dust storms.​
  • Integrated soil and water management practices provide essential ecosystem services, supporting life on earth and enhancing ecosystem resilience.
  • Healthy soils act as a carbon sink, by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, thus contributing to both climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Soil Science Australia hosted a World Soil Day event in Canberra with the Parliamentary Friends of Soil on Tuesday 28 November. Read the full news story here.

Agriculture and food production

Soil underpins our agricultural production, directly contributing approximately $63 billion AUD per year to Australia’s economy (Jackson et al. 2018).

 

Clean water and flood mitigation

Soils are an important resource for storing and filtering water. Soil water storage protects our towns and infrastructure by mitigating flooding. Soil also absorbs contaminants and purifies our water resources providing clean water that is essential for society.

 

Climate change mitigation

Our soils are a vital player in global climate change mitigation. Australia’s soil stores large amounts of organic carbon, determined as 3.5% of the total global stocks in the 0-30 cm layer (Viscarra Rossel et al. 2014). However, native vegetation clearance and poor soil management have and continue to result in the loss of soil organic carbon and enhanced greenhouse gas emissions. Capturing and retaining carbon in soil (sequestration) helps mitigate against climate change also improves soil health and productivity. Soil carbon sequestration is an accredited method under Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and thus storing carbon in soil can also produce direct economic benefits in addition to the improvements to soil function.

Sustaining life and key ecosystem functions

Soil contains and directly supports the majority of our terrestrial biodiversity from microscopic organisms such as fungi and bacteria to macroscopic organisms such as earthworms and wombats. These soil organisms play critical roles in important ecosystem processes including organic matter decomposition, nutrient cycling, enhancing plant nutrient uptake, carbon and nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere, and improving soil structure and aeration (Colloff 2011). Many of these ecosystem functions are vital to the indefinite sustainable use of our soils.

Soils are Australia’s most valuable natural asset (approx. $1 trillion/year) and provide food, shelter, clothing, and help keep our water sources clean. Healthy soils are intrinsically linked to strong regional communities through their connections to agriculture and the environment.

Read more about the value of Australia’s soils…

URBAN AND INDUSTRIAL ENCROACHMENT (THREAT)

Valuable agricultural soils are under increasing attack from expansion of our cities and towns and government, industry and communities must work together to strike the right balance between growth and land care.

Read more about urban and industrial encroachment…

EROSION (THREAT)

Australian soils are seriously threatened by degradation and the unnecessary loss of topsoils through wind and water erosion must be prevented.

Preventing erosion of soil is also important to protect our Great Barrier Reef, ensure the sustainability of our farming land, and reduce health impacts from dust storms.

Read more about erosion…

ACIDIFICATION, SALINISATION and SODIFICATION (THREAT)

Soil health is declining across Australia with increasing salinity, sodicity, acidity and reduced carbon levels; the impacts of poor soil management will be felt for generations.

Read more about acidification…

Read more about salinisation and sodification…

CONTAMINATION (THREAT)

Contamination can move from soils into the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Read more about contamination…

CLIMATE CHANGE (THREAT)

Soil is the “living skin” of the earth and can act as a defence against climate change; only 10% of Australia is suitable for crops/improved pasture—this is decreasing every year due to climate change.

Increasing droughts are sucking the life out of soils and out of regional communities but sustainable agricultural practises can reduce soil damage and improve farm productivity.

Australia is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and soil can play a key role in this and they store vast amounts of carbon and help to mitigate climate change.

Read more about climate change…

Opportunities

Although our soils are facing significant threats, there are opportunities available for sustainable soils management.

Read more about opportunities…

SOLUTIONS TO SAVING OUR SOILS

Adopt a national integrated approach to soil management and develop stronger links between soil scientists, researchers, policy makers and farmers.

Focus on professional accreditation, education and training in soils while improving soil information systems to support sustainable land management.

Read more about the solutions Soil Science Australia is proposing…

World Soil Day (Archives)

Soil Science Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land and we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future.