Federation University Australia
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Sandy soil map of Australia's agricultural lands

posted on 2023-11-16, 23:00 authored by Nathan RobinsonNathan Robinson, Rick Pope

Soil and landscape mapping was collated from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, in combination with latest Digital Soil Mapping products for Australia (Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia) as the basis for a new sandy soils map. A staged map compilation process was undertaken to combine all these available datasets into one uniform map that retains integrity of legacy contextual mapping information.

The key steps undertaken in the mapping of sandy soils include: 1. Define an agricultural region area of interest for this study; 2. Collate available soil-landscape mapping datasets across Australia (including state and national); 3. Assemble and edit existing mapping to form a new sandy soil map for agricultural regions of the study area; 4. Review and revise this mapping in response to feedback from NCST members including state/territory experts.

Maps were revised and updated with input from members of the Digital Soil Assessment Working Group and members of the National Committee on Soil and Terrain. While efforts were made to include these suggestions, it was not possible to refine the map indefinitely, and therefore editing ceased on the 23rd of February 2021. Due to the variations in scale, mapping techniques, representation, and attribution across Australia, the use of these maps for such purposes as mapping sandy soils across southern Australia proved difficult.

From the new sandy soils map we were able to identify agricultural areas of sandy soils: (Western Australia - 10.611Mha; South Australia - 2.479Mha; New South Wales - 1.867Mha; Victoria - 0.864Mha and Tasmania - 0.215Mha). Nationally there were 16.039Mha of sandy soil identified which is considerably higher than the 11Mha from previous estimates.

This research is funded by the CRC for High Performance Soils and supported by the Cooperative Research Centres program, an Australian Government initiative.

Additional funding and in-kind support are provided by: Murdoch University, PIRSA, Federation University Australia, West Midlands Group and AORA. Contributions from Richard Bell, Amanda Schapel and David Davenport have been critical in shaping the logic and key considerations in mapping sandy soils and benefits of amelioration. James Hall is also thanked for providing insights into sandy soils for South Australia and the formation of the new Arenosol soil order for Australia.

We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the Digital Soil Assessment Working Group and members of the National Committee on Soil and Terrain that provided valuable feedback on the approach used to map sandy soils.

Administrative and structural details on data files:

  • A shapefile (Sandy_soil_map_aglands.shp) is provided for use in a Geographic Information System (GIS). This should be useable in commercial (e.g. ArcGIS) and open source software packages (e.g. QGIS). The shapefile data coordinate system is WGS1984 geographic.
  • A RTF file is also provided which includes information on the data fields and content of the shapefile for users. Note that abbreviations for the Australian Soil Classification Order and Suborder fields (as 2021) were used.

Associated publication:

Robinson N, Pope R, Liddicoat C, Holmes K, Griffin E, Kidd D, Jenkins B, Rees D, Searle R. (2021) Sandy Soils: Organic and clay amendments to improve the productivity of sandy soils. Detailed plan for mapping and grouping of sands. Soil CRC Project 3.3.003. Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils.


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