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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ecological Risk Assessment

Soil Quality at a National Scale in New Zealand


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 6, p. 1848-1857
    Received: May 22, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): SparlingG@LandcareResearch.co.nz
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  1. G. P. Sparling * and
  2. L. A. Schipper
  1. Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton, New Zealand


New Zealand is a signatory to international conventions on environmental performance, and soil quality information is needed for reporting both at a national and regional level. Soil quality was measured at 222 sites in five regions of New Zealand (12 soil orders and 9 land-use categories). Topsoil (0–100 mm) properties measured were total carbon and nitrogen, potentially mineralizable N, pH, Olsen P, cation exchange capacity, bulk density, total porosity, macroporosity, and total available and readily available water. Our objectives were to gauge the representativeness of the sample, determine the contribution from land use or soil order to variability, rationalize the data set, and identify concerns for long-term sustainable land use. Soil and land use combinations were both under- or overrepresented in the data set compared with national distribution. Soil order and land-use categories explained 55 to 76% of the variance in soil properties. Total C contents of pastures were comparable with indigenous forest soils, but pastures were less acidic and with higher N and P contents. Plantation forests had characteristics similar to indigenous forests on comparable soils. Cropland soils comprised <1% of the national land cover and generally had high inorganic fertility and low organic matter, with evidence of compaction. Seven characteristics (total C, total N, mineralizable N, pH, Olsen P, bulk density, and macroporosity) explained 87% of the total variability. The findings are being used by monitoring agencies to raise awareness about soil quality in the wider community, set land management guidelines, and develop policies.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:1848–1857.