Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Land Resource Information: A strategic roadmap for the future

Image - John Hunt

Image - John Hunt

Landcare Research, like all the Crown Research Institutes, has agreed a Statement of Core Purpose in partnership with stakeholders and shareholders, mapping out where and how our science can deliver national benefit. ‘Achieve the sustainable use of land resources and their ecosystem services across catchments and sectors’ is one of Landcare Research’s four national outcomes.

Looking back, most of our research in the soil and land space has undoubtedly focused on this aspiration, but we asked ourselves whether there was a more strategic approach we could take to deliver this outcome? We asked this question in a series of science and stakeholder workshops, as well as an online conversation about land resources. Better coordination and use of land resource research and data emerged as clear priorities.

Our Board of Directors recognised the potential benefits of greater coordination when presented with our findings, agreeing to invest in a strategic initiative to scope, plan and implement a National Land Resource Centre. Our vision is a Centre that can develop and maintain a significant data repository from a variety of sources (basic research from Landcare Research and other science providers; nationally significant databases and collections; major contracts; and government and industry stakeholders). Coordinating these data sets into robust and authoritative sources of information (in both electronic and hard copy) and using informatics innovations to provide easy access across a range of scales will be among the key improvements required.

In this edition of Soil Horizons we take you on a journey through our world of land resource data1 and information2, highlighting some of the challenges, opportunities, and advancements that will be addressed through a National Land Resource Centre.

We provide updates on improvements in the accessibility of data resources – whether it is a case of greater consistency in the way we refer to or classify our soils (New Zealand Soil Classification updated and extended) through to ‘easy on the eye’ portals and interfaces (S-map Online: an interactive mapping and query application for New Zealand soils data andSupplying land and soils data over the web – the LRIS portal) and interpretation of the data for end-users (Ecosystem Services for Multiple Outcomes). The usefulness of these portals, of course, is only limited by the quality and coverage of the underpinning data – which, as James Barringer et al. suggest, will be an ongoing challenge as we try to find ways to increase the coverage of S-map.

We provide examples of how data can be collected more quickly, effectively or cheaply using smart technologies (Making better use of LiDAR in soil and landscape modelling and Tracking the depth to water table in the Manawatu Sand Country). We highlight the importance of being part of global initiatives to harmonsie and optimise research, data, and information methods ( We also present articles on some of the successful attempts to get the flow of research knowledge into improving the reliability, coverage and robustness of significant data sets (Effect of erosion on soil carbon stocks, Detecting changes in soil carbon and nitrogen under pastoral land use in New Zealand and New Zealand Land Cover Database); reflecting on the importance of revisiting, re-sampling and repopulating databases to extend their reliability and use to understand states and trends.

Finally two projects show that once data collection or data management methods have been established there are many ways in which they can be used to achieve impact. In this case we also review some interesting off-shore applications of land resource information (Protecting coral reefs in the Pacific and Mapping Antarctic soils).

The year ahead provides an opportunity to build on the many positive initiatives we review here. Through our core funding contracts and in partnership with our stakeholders we will move to a more strategic, coordinated and deliberate approach to assembling an information base for New Zealand land resources. Available to a wide range of organisations this information will help report on state of the environment, plan development within environmental limits, and ultimately, match land use to the capacity of land resources.

We’d like to thank you for your ongoing support of this research area and ask you to continue to assist as we build a roadmap of priorities for our National Land Resource Centre.

Alison Collins

1With ‘data’ as qualitative or quantitative attributes of a variable or set of variables
2 With ‘information’ as data processed to be useful; providing answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions