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Humans have observed variations in soil properties and its fertility since the advent of settled agricultural societies (Kibblewhite, 2018). However, soil properties vary considerably depending on the complexity and site-specificity of the soil, its legacy of previous land use and trade-offs between ecosystem services (Bünemann et al. 2018). In addition, people value soil for different reasons depending on their societal values and worldview (these aspects of soil health are the focus of Research Aims 2 and 3). Therefore, choosing which soil attributes to assess whether a soil is healthy or fertile is complex and requires assessment of a range of soil functions – physical, chemical and biological, how these attributes change over time and what effect these soil assessments have in relation to the services and benefits soil provides for humans, plants and animals.

Research Aim 1 in the Soil health and resilience: Oneone ora, Tangata ora MBIE-funded programme supports a science-based approach which focuses on long term experiments and land use comparisons for measuring the soil system. A range of soil characteristics and land use sequences in a variety of soil types are being measured to understand how different soils change under land use intensification.


Bünemann, E. K., Bongiorno, G., Bai, Z., Creamer, R. E., De Deyn, G., de Goede, R., . . . Mäder, P. (2018). Soil quality–A critical review. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 120, 105-125.

Kibblewhite MG 2018. Soil and soil health: An overview In: Reicosky D ed. Managing soil health for sustainable agriculture. Vol I. Fundamentals. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing.