Land, water and soil
Healthy soils and appropriate land use underpin sustainable primary production and contribute to New Zealand’s ability to neutralise greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing demand for urban development or intensified pastoral agriculture is putting pressure on land, water and soils, especially as most of New Zealand’s soils are of low natural fertility. Because of the vastness of the environment and the rapid rate at which it is being changed, it is important to monitor and measure environmental conditions and trends using the most advanced and specialized methods, tools and technologies. Among the most widely used are remote sensing systems. These instruments, mounted on orbiting satellites or aircraft, produce map-like images and gather other non-pictorial data about the environment, including land use, vegetation and water cover, and soil erosion or land degradation. For these data to help environmental management and decision making, they must be available in a timely and organized way. Sophisticated computer-based information systems, such as geographic information systems, have been designed to store, analyse, and map diverse types of digital data in a geographical referenced forma. They have proved essential tools to help develop management strategies for sustainable development and protection of natural resources.
Remote sensing and GIS is applied to a wide variety of fields and is routinely used for projects that involve monitoring resources, detecting changes, identifying vegetative cover, determining vegetative health, and planning infrastructure developments.
Models are a way to represent processes that are often very complex in reality. They can capture knowledge about these processes, and make use of data that can be measured to assess and predict environmental properties.
Soil is the base of life on land. It provides the bulk of the nutrients needed for plant growth, helps decompose and recycle biodegradable waste, and is a major component of water recycling and water storage processes.
Soil is the heart of a healthy ecosystem. One of the primary functions of soil is to capture precipitation, storing water for plants to use at a later day. Essentially it is the plants water and nutrient bank account.