National Soils Database improvement project
The National Soils Data Repository — next generation, world-class soils observation data system
For the last three years staff at Manaaki Whenua have been working on a programme to improve the National Soils Database (NSD).
The National Soils Database (NSD) is a crucial part of our soil data legacy in New Zealand. The first database was created in 1980s. It has been migrated to three different relational databases in the intervening period but maintaining and improving the NSD was a challenge due to a substantial drop in funding for soil science over the last 20 years. An increasing realisation of the importance of soil to ensure productive food systems, improved rural livelihoods, and a sustainable healthy environment has seen a corresponding appreciation of the importance of soil data.
In June 2012 a review of the NSD identified a significant number of issues, and a plan of action was formulated to redevelop and improve the NSD to make it fit 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 National Soils Data Repository).
The 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 specific in purpose (for storage and presentation of pedologic 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 track changes to the data over time. Access to a dataset is managed ensuring that sensitive or confidential information can be securely stored and accessed. A key component of the NSDR is a registry of a full set of definitions for soil properties, their categorical value, related analysis methods, and units of measurement.
The goal of this next generation database is to be able to generate new soils information cost effectively 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 data standards and international data sharing protocols.
The NSDR Viewer is the first element of the NSDR to be publicly released. Using the viewer, users are able to access data from the original National Soils Database. Since 2018, authorised access is also available to more recent datasets.