Soil is one of Australia’s most valuable assets.
Soils are one of our most valuable resources in Australia, supporting our food, fibre and water supplies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Contamination can move from soils into the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
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.
Although our soils are facing significant threats, there are opportunities available for sustainable soils management.
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.
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.