EARTH502-22A (HAM)

Land and Soil: Resources and Risks

15 Points

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Division of Health Engineering Computing & Science
School of Science
Earth Sciences


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Paper Description

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Land and Soil: Resources and Risks

Several land-use related themes are examined and integrated to help provide students with a better understanding of the issues involved with land use and especially its intensification in the Waikato region. Firstly, we show how farm-scale soil mapping and the use of Land Use Capability Handbook (3rd ed) for farm-scale land evaluation can aid decision making by land managers to help reduce or mitigate the environmental risks associated with particular land uses in ‘real-world’ soilscapes. Secondly, the concept of soil quality is examined with reference to the “500 Soils” project and recent developments regarding soil quality and soil health taking cognisance of concepts of soil as natural capital and its role in providing ecosystem services. Thirdly, some of the environmental consequences, including land and soil degradation and contamination by non-desirable elements or compounds, of the use and management of land are examined.

Note in schedule the initials of staff involved:

Prof David Lowe = DL

Dr Tanya O'Neill = TO

Dr Aaron Wall = AW

Guest lecturers:

Dr David Houlbrooke (AgResearch, Hamilton) = DH

Dr Bryan Stevenson = BS (Landcare Research)

Tokanui Farm:

Farm manager: Andrew Byles 029 838 5516

Farm admin: Denise Adams 07 870 5137

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Paper Structure

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The paper is in three sections: (1) farm-scale soil and LUC mapping (Tokanui Farm project), which includes GIS; (2) soil quality; and (3) land and soil degradation and contamination.

The paper is composed of lectures, field mapping exercises and conversion of maps in GIS, an essay on soil quality, and one student oral seminar.

Participants in the course will normally meet during term times for lectures in room E2.01 on Wednesdays 9-11 am (or as required/advised). A one-off guest lecture (L4) on farm dairy effluent by Dr Houlbrooke (AgResearch) will take place in the morning of Friday 11 March at 11.15 am on the Ruakura campus, the same day (Friday 11 March) we will undertake a part-day reconnaisance visit to Tokanui Farm after the AgResearch lecture (i.e. approx. 12.15-4.15 pm).

Students will undertake independent mapping on Thursday 17 March, Thursday 24 March, Friday 1 April (after 11 am), and Friday 8 April (after 11 am) as a key requirement of the paper. We also have four GIS sessions scheduled on some Thursdays 11 am to 2 pm (labs will normally be two hours in duration, i.e. 11 am to 1 pm, but an extra hour will be available for self study if needed from 1-2 pm), in lab KB.04, in April and May (see the schedule).

The paper is supported by learning resources accessed via Moodle

All assignments are essential.

By shifting two field mapping days to Thursdays (17 and 24 March), and making the two Friday mapping days part days only (1 and 8 April), we accommodate the clash on Friday mornings with the SCIEN methods paper.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to:

  • 1. Describe land evaluation and the different sorts of land evaluation undertaken in New Zealand with comment on their effectiveness and limitations
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 2. Explain with reference to examples how to go about undertaking a farm-scale soil survey
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 3. Explain with reference to examples how to go about a farm-scale LUC survey
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  • 4. Explain the application of GIS to generate digital maps at large scale.
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 5. Explain the rationale and purposes of large-scale soil- and LUC surveys, and their benefits for agricultural and other land uses from management and environmental viewpoints
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 6. Explain the management of farm dairy effluent (FDE) including the roles of soil properties and landscapes in its disposal/use as an irrigant
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 7. Explain soil quality in New Zealand, including reference to the “500 Soils” project and its development including impacts of farming on soil quality and their potential amelioration
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 8. Explain the degradation and contamination of soils as a consequence of different uses and management of land, and implications
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 9. Communicate and present scientific and other data (e.g., regulatory information) effectively in oral and written form
    Linked to the following assessments:
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 60:40. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 40% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 60:40 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 40% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Assignment "Draft maps" of Tokanui Farm
7 Apr 2022
11:00 AM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Assignment 2 Essay on soil quality
27 Apr 2022
5:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
3. Assignment 1 Soil and LUC surveys Tokanui Farm
18 May 2022
5:00 PM
  • Hand-in: Faculty Information (FG Link)
4. Assignment 3 Seminar on soil contamination
8 Jun 2022
9:00 AM
  • In Class: In Workshop
5. Exam
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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We will lend each student a copy of each of Hewitt (2010), Webb and Lilburne (2011), and the LUC Handbook by Lynn et al. (2009). These texts must be returned in good condition at the end of the paper. (Failure to do so could result in penalties.)

Lynn et al. (2009) is also available for purchase ($45) from the New Zealand Society of Soil Science via Isabelle Vanderkolk (administrator at AgResearch Grasslands, Palmerston North,, or it can be downloaded free from the Landcare Research website at A pdf version of the downloaded low-resolution version is available on Moodle as well as on the Landcare Research website.

Papers on each of the topics will be provided in handouts for assignments and via Moodle.

Recommended reading

Büneman, E.K., Bongiorno, G., Bai, Z., Creamer, R.E., De Deyn, G. et al. 2018. Soil quality – a critical review. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 120, 105-125.

Chibnall, E., Curran-Cournane, F. 2015. Soil quality for dairy and converted dairy sites in the Auckland region 2014 and changes after 18 years. Auckland Council Technical Report, TR2015/020.

Curran-Cournane, F. 2015. Soil quality state and trends in New Zealand’s largest city after 15 years. International Journal of Biological and Ecological Engineering 9, 325-332.

Curran-Cournane, F. 2020. Differences in soil quality and trace elements across land uses in Auckland and changes in soil parameters from 1995-2017. Auckland Council Technical Report, TR2020/001. 94 pp.

Curran-Cournane, F. 2021. Testing the boundaries to circumvent policy that aim to protect our best land and soils. New Zealand Soil News 69 (2), 2-5.

Curran-Cournane, F., Vaughan, M., Memon, A., Fredrickson, C. 2014. Trade-offs between high class land and development: recent and future pressures on Auckland’s valuable soil resources. Land Use Policy 39, 146–154.

Curran-Cournane, F., Lear, G., Schwendenmann, L., Khin, J. 2015. Heavy metal soil pollutionis influenced by the location of green spaces within urban settings. Soil Research 53,306-315.

Curran-Cournane, F., Cain, T., Greenhalgh, S., Samarsinghe, O. 2016. Attitudes of a farming community towards urban growth and rural fragmentation—an Auckland case study. Land Use Policy 58, 241–250.

Curran-Cournane, F., Golubiewski, N., Buckthought, L. 2018. The odds appear stacked against versatile land: can we change them? New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 61, 315-326.

Curran-Cournane, F., Carrick, S., Barnes, M.G., Ausseil, A.-G., Drewry, J.J., Bain, I.A., Golubiewski, N.E., Jones, H.S., Barringer, J., Morell, L. 2021. Cumulative effects of fragmentation and development on highly productive land in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, DOI: 10.1080/00288233.2021.1918185

Deloitte 2018.New Zealand’s food story: The Pukekohe hub. Quick stats on horticulture in New Zealand and reports.

Dominati, E., Mackay, A., Bouma, J., Green, S. 2016. An ecosystems approach to quantify soil performance for multiple outcomes: the future of land evaluation? Soil Science Society of America Journal 80, 438-449.

Greenhalgh, S., Samarasinghe, O., Curran-Cournane, F., Wright, W., Brown, P. 2017. Using ecosystem services to underpin cost–benefit analysis: is it a way to protect finite soil resources? Ecosystem Services 27, 1–14.

Hewitt, A.E. 2010. New Zealand Soil Classification 3rd ed. Landcare Research Science Series 1. Manaaki Whenua Press.133 pp.

Hewitt, A.E., Dominati, E., Webb, T., Cuthill, T. 2015. Soil natural capital quantification by the stock adequacy method. Geoderma 241-242, 107-114.

Hewitt, A.E., Balks, M.R., Lowe, D.J. 2021. The Soils of Aotearoa New Zealand (1st ed.) Springer, Cham, xx + 332 pp.

Hicks, D., Vujcich, V . 2017. Farm-scale land use capability classification for Auckland. Auckland Council Technical Report, TR2017/016. 33 pp.

Janzen, H.H. and 7 others 2011. Global prospects rooted in soil science. Soil Science Society of America Journal 75, 1-8.

Lilburne L, Sparling G, Schipper L 2004. Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: development of an interpretative framework. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment104, 535-544.

Lynn, I.H., Manderson, A.K., Page, M.J., Harmsworth, G.R., Eyles, G.O., Douglas, G.B., Mackay, A.D., Newsome, P.J.F. 2009. Land Use Capability Survey Handbook 3rd Edition. AgResearch Hamilton, Landcare Research, Lincoln, GNS Science, Lower Hutt. 163 pp.

Massey, C. (editor) 2017. No free lunch. Can New Zealand feed the world sustainably? The New Zealand Land and Food Annual, Massey University Press, Palmerston North/Albany. 284 pp.

Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ 2018. New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our Land 2018. Available from and

Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ 2019. New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Environment Aotearoa 2019. Available from and

Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ 2021. New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our land 2021.Available from and

Ministry for Primary Industries 2019. Proposed National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land.

Ministry for Primary Industries 2019. Valuing highly productive land. A discussion document on a proposed national policy statement for highly productive land. MPI Discussion Paper 2019/05. 70 pp. [Note this paper was co-published by Ministry for the Environment]

Palm, C., Sanchez, P., Ahamed, S., Awiti, A. 2007. Soils: a contemporary perspective. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 32, 99-129. 10.1146/

Pretty, J. 2018. Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems. Science 362, eaav0294. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0294 (comprises 7-page article and a 1-page summary)

Sparling G, Schipper L 2004. Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: trends and issues arising from a broad-scale survey. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 104, 545-552.

Sparling GP, Schipper LA, Bettjeman W, Hill R 2004. Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: practical lessons from a 6-year trial. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 104, 523-534.

Taylor M, Cox N, Littler R, Drewry J 2017. Trends in soil quality monitoring data in the Waikato region 1995-2015. Waikato Regional Council Technical Report 2017/26. Retrievable from

Taylor M, Caldwell J, Sneath G. 2017. Current state and trend of cadmium levels in soil, freshwater and sediments across the Waikato region. In: Science and policy: nutrient management challenges for the next generation. (Eds L. D. Currie and M. J. Hedley). Occasional Report No. 30. Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. 11 pp.

Webb, T.H., Lilburne, L.R. 2011. Criteria for defining the soil family and soil sibling – the fourth and fifth categories of the New Zealand Soil Classification. 2nd edition. Landcare Research Science Series 3. 38 pp.

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Recommended Readings

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Further references will be provided during the paper for each topic.
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Online Support

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Online support will be provided via Moodle, which is accessible to all students who are enrolled in the paper.

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The paper involves 10 lectures; four tutorials/progress meetings incl GIS labs; a half-day reconnaisance farm visit and subsequent independent mapping on Tokanui Farm (up to 4 days) and associated write-up including preparing maps in GIS; preparation of an essay on soil quality; preparation and presentation of one oral seminar; and preparation for a final 3-hour exam. A 500-level 15 point paper in any of the science subjects offered by the University of Waikato typically involves up to ~30 hours of supervised study and it is assumed that up to ~120 hours will be spent in private study by an ‘average’ student. Students should allocate the ~120 hours approximately as 70% for course work and 30% for exam preparation.

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Linkages to Other Papers

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This paper is complementary to ENVSC503-21B 'Terrestrial Ecosystem-Atmosphere Exchange Processes'.

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Prerequisite papers: EARTH321 or EARTH322 or ERTH333 or ERTH334




Restricted papers: ERTH535

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