Scientists worldwide are working on a new Global Soil Map.
CSIRO contributes to Global Soil Map
Since 2008, CSIRO has been working with more than 100 scientists across all continents of the world to build a new Global Soil Map.
25 January 2011 | Updated 8 October 2012
Soil is the land’s living skin. It holds water for plants, stores nutrients for crops, absorbs carbon, teems with biodiversity and is the fundamental support for life.
Decision-makers need accurate, consistent and functional information about soil resources to determine the best use of land resources, especially as competing demands multiply. Not only in Australia do we need to increase agricultural productivity while reducing environmental impacts; this is an urgent need around the world.
Four years ago at the World Soils Congress, soil scientists were challenged by Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Director of the Earth Institute and Special Advisor to the United Nations) to respond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the looming food productivity demands and the effects of climate change. From across the world, soil scientists joined together to build a new global soil map designed to address these needs.
CSIRO was a founding member of Global Soil Map (www.globalsoilmap.net [external link]). As well as working on the global specifications and procedures, it leads the Oceania Node working with collaborators throughout the region.
Not only in Australia do we need to increase agricultural productivity while reducing environmental impacts; this is an urgent need around the world.
What information will the map provide?
This Global Soil Map will provide a fine-scale global grid of the key soil attributes describing soil moisture and nutrient capacity, soil depth, the level of acidity or alkalinity, salinity, soil density, the proportions of clay, sand and silt, and will place these soils in their landscape positions.
Using state-of-the-art and emerging technologies, the map will draw on existing and new datasets and provide information for computer simulation models so that users can more accurately predict the trends of our natural and productive ecosystems.
This will help decision-makers understand the ways attributes are changing and reasons why - for example is water holding capacity being affected by local or global processes like climate change.
The Global Soil Map consortium
The Global Soil Map is split into eight nodes with international coordination by ISRIC - World Soil Information, an independent foundation based at Wageningin University in the Netherlands.
CSIRO leads the Oceania Node, closely collaborating with Landcare New Zealand, The University of Sydney and a growing network of soil agencies and soil scientists in the region.
The Node is developing through an increasing level of collaboration and shared scientific development. The University of Sydney has an additional global role in developing the science needed and in building training programs.
Other Nodes are led by the following organisations:
- North America: National Soil Survey Center, USA
- Latin America and the Caribbean: Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), Brazil
- Eurasia: Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Italy
- East Asia: Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISSAS)
- Sub-Sahara Africa: Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute (TSBF-CIAT), Kenya
- North Africa, Central and West Asia: Ministry of Agriculture, CUMERC – Institute for Digital Soil Mapping, Jordan
- a south Asia node will form shortly.
CSIRO’s involvement in research and project management
CSIRO has been working with partner organisations to:
- engage with researchers from several institutions and countries – especially to refine existing methodology and to develop new approaches to estimate soil functions
- develop data and information management standards
- develop data and information systems to design and implement the soil grid, collate data (for example soil sampling, map data and computer simulation modelling) and to ensure effective information delivery
- provide input to Global Soil Map specifications for use by all countries to use
- collate and manage existing data captured in information systems across institutions and countries
- establish and support soil monitoring programs
- explore technology opportunities for linking with related global initiatives, especially in the Group on Earth Observation and Global Earth Observation System of Systems
- find the best methods for estimating the uncertainty of the map and then for reducing that uncertainty
- provide advice on the user interface for people to access the mapping products
- provide training to soil scientists in the Oceania Node and more broadly
- organise meetings, access funding, and develop administration and governance structures.
Partner organisations for Oceania Node:
- The University of Sydney, Australia
- Landcare Research NZ
- Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development
- Land Resources Division and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (representing the 22 countries that make up the Pacific Community)
- State and Territory Governments in Australia through the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program (ACLEP):
- New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water
- Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts
- Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management
- South Australia Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- Tasmania Department of Primary Industries and Water
- Victoria Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
- Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food
- And other partners as the Node develops.
Financial supporters of the project
The Global Soil Map project internationally has financial support from a range of organisations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.
The first work started in sub-Saharan Africa, through an A$18 million grant awarded to the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to create the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS).
In Australia, the work of the Oceania node is supported by funding from:
Find out more about the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.