SOIL CONDITION MONITORING PROGRAM FOR NEW SOUTH WALES CHAPMAN G, WILSON B, MURPHY B, BOWMAN G, ATKINSON G, MULLER R and PEASELY B NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, PO Box 3720, Paramatta 2420 NSW Australia, email@example.com The highest priority for soil science in the Department of Environment and Climate Change is to design a soil condition monitoring system and to at least partially establish a soil condition baseline by December 2008. A closely related monitoring theme monitors land management practices in relation to land capability. Both themes are components of a broader state program which includes monitoring of; endangered and pest flora and fauna, surface water, ground water, native vegetation extent and condition, wetland, estuary and socio economic and community capacity to implement natural resource management. Monitoring targets are also aspirational targets against which Catchment Management Authorities are expected to be held accountable by the Natural Resources Commission. Natural resource condition monitoring is intended as the ultimate review component of the NSW natural resource management cycle. The aim of the program is to provide ongoing reporting on soil condition to: Assist with resource allocation, especially CMA level projects and management targets Assist with performance monitoring of on ground CMA activities. It is hoped that between 650 to 1000 25m by 25m permanent plots across will be sampled, tested and evaluated within selected soil monitoring units across all major NSW Catchment Authority Areas. Location of the permanent plot sites is based on initial stratification into soil monitoring units and then further stratification within soil monitoring units. Soil monitoring units consist of groups of map units from the state Soil Landscape Mapping program (ref#) in the eastern and central divisions and Land System Mapping (Walker #) in the Western Division. Catchment Management Authority Areas CMAs CMAs cover around 60,000 square kilometres and typically contain around 30 to 40 soil monitoring units. Soil monitoring units are prioritised on the basis of: Areal extent the importance of the soil asset (according to productivity, unique production value and impacts of degradation the likelihood of soil condition change on the basis of predicted land use or land use pressure changes the number of indictors which are currently present within the soil monitoring unit The aspirational target, with current resources, is to sample soils from up to ten soil monitoring units from each larger. As the program is new it is unknown how much progress will be made prior to reporting. Where possible the plots are locally paired across major land uses on the same soil type. The land use differences are intended to help control for seasonal climate differences as well as to help provide an economic means of reporting more comprehensively on soil condition Each soil monitoring unit is initially intended to contain five sites on the largest soil landscape, within the largest soil landscape facet on the largest or most important land use. Where possible each site is paired on the same soil type with a near by site with the second most extensive land use in the soil monitoring unit. In many instances this is not possible because: Land use has already been selected by soil type The soil monitoring unit only consists of one dominant land use eg grazing The soil monitoring unit consists of more than one land use in rotation eg grazing- cropping-grazing Where this is not possible the fall back is to sample at least one reference site in least disturbed condition as possible. Factors such as slope, aspect and landform position as well as soil type are controlled as far as possible. The aim is to detect changes in soil organic carbon, pH, and structural condition. In addition changes in the extent and condition of gullies, dryland salt outbreak size and intensity and percentage bare ground are being monitored using satellite, airborne imagery and ground observations. Digital airborne imagery is proving to be a useful monitoring tool as the images are routinely obtained on a five yearly basis, are readily geo-referenced and have a spatial resolution of around 0.5 metre. At each site a detailed protocol is used to divide the site into 100 2.5 by 2.5 metre cells. A latin square design is used to sample soils at 0-5cm, 5-10cm, 10-20cm and 20-30cm using 50mm diameter sampling tubes. Tube samples are tested for bulk density, carbon, pH and electrical conductivity. In the southwest corner of the site a full profile description (with sampled horizons to 50cm and characterised for many physical and chemical attributes) structural soil assessment is done following methods outlined by Shepherd (#) Samples are collected at this location at 0-5cm and 5-10cm to assess soil structural attributes. Numerous photos are taken of field tests, the site, its approach and ground cover. A detailed questionnaire concerning site history and land management is completed with the land holder. The plan is to resample every 5 years and also to collect land management information annually. It is unknown what the site attrition rate will be. Sites are located by GPS, marked and located using fibreglass battons and a metal object is buried > 30cm to aid future location. Seven field teams, consisting mostly of pairs of recent graduates can complete field work for up to four sites per day, however a similar amount of office time is required to contact landholders, collect land management information, select sites and process the data. At each site approximately 45 samples are collected for testing. With the exception of samples tested for acid sulfate soil condition, a natural resources laboratory has been recently established to test the samples. A soil health index (SHI) is being developed for each indicator. The soil health index is based on a five class rating and is intended to be comparable with indicii used for other themes eg endangered species. Class five relates to a reference or no concern condition and whereas class one represents a situation where condition can deteriorate no further. Class thresholds vary according to soil type and geography and are set according to soil monitoring units by local experts using existing evidence. It is expected that SHI thresholds will be further adjusted according to information collected by the program. The data will be entered into corporate data bases and routine queries used to input to models. The models are used to predict future soil condition based on business as usual and other scenarios. The model outputs will be combined with existing soil survey and land use data to provide scenarios for catchment management decisions such as targeting future investments.