Next generation databases for soil observation data
For the last two years staff at Landcare Research have been working to improve the National Soils Database (NSD). The NSD is a database containing descriptions of about 1500 New Zealand soil profiles, together with their chemical, physical, and mineralogical characteristics.
The NSD is a critical part of our soil data legacy in New Zealand. The fi rst database was created in the 1980s and contained records back to the 1950s. The data have been migrated to three different databases in the intervening period and maintaining and improving the NSD has been a challenge due to continual changes in information technology (software and computer systems) and lack of priority funding for soil science.
In June 2012 a review of the NSD identifi ed a significant number of issues and a plan of action was formulated to redevelop and improve the NSD to make it fi t for purpose for today’s soil data needs. It was agreed that we needed to create a next generation, world-class soils observation data system.
The resulting National Soils Data Repository (NSDR) is a versatile soil observation database that now hosts the original National Soils Database. Whereas the original National Soils Database was very specifi c in purpose (for storage and presentation of pedological data sampled by horizon with a minimum suite of analytical results), the NSDR database has been specifically designed with the capability of housing a variety of soil datasets that differ in content, format, and utility (such as accommodating soils sampled by depth intervals or sites resampled over time).
The NSDR is designed and implemented so that each dataset can include full provenance information, such as detailed descriptions of the methods used to collect and analyse the data, while audit trails can track changes to the data over time. Access to a dataset can be managed, ensuring that sensitive or confi dential information can be securely stored and published. A key component of the NSDR is a registry of a full set of defi nitions for soil properties that incudes their categorical
value, related analysis methods, and units of measurement.
The goal of this next generation database is to be able to process data cost effectively to generate new soils information from a diverse set of data sources. This will allow integration of a range of resources such as soil quality data, National Soils Database data, and S-map observations. Fully utilised, the NSDR will result in a more cohesive system for soil resource information accessed through a web portal and advanced web data services that conform to national and international data standards and sharing protocols.
The NSDR Viewer (Beta) (Fig. 1) s the first element of the NSDR to be released. Using the viewer, users can get access to data from the original National Soils Database. As we improve the system, more soils data will be made available to end users.