Pacific soil data


Impressions from Pacific work

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research (MWLR) and its predecessor organisation, the NZ Soil Bureau, have a long history of supporting soil and land resources research in the Pacific, with the origins dating as far back as 1938 when Hamilton & Grange conducted an investigation of soils in Western Samoa.

The support has included funding and technical assistance to Pacific Island countries through soil surveys, soil laboratory analysis, soil characterisation, soil classification, soil fertility analysis, agronomic studies, soil interpretation for land use, information technology applications of soils data, and training for national and regional staff working in soils and agricultural research.

The work has been mainly conducted in the southwest Pacific – the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Tonga, and Western Samoa – but has also involved regional soils projects including the South Pacific Agricultural Chemistry Laboratory Network (SPACNET).

Funding for this work has primarily been from the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) and its predecessors. Similarly, the NZ Soil Bureau was the major technical contributor to the New Zealand funded soils research in the Pacific.

Several reports are available which provide an inventory of the soil and related research in the Pacific supported by New Zealand over the last 70 years. These inventory is invaluable because soil and related agronomic research underpins the development of sustainable livelihoods in most Pacific countries. They limit the risk that details of the research would be lost through loss of institutional memory due to institutional change, staff turnover, retirements and loss of data within both Pacific and New Zealand organisations.

The Pacific Soils Portal

A new information platform for Pacific soils information

A geospatial portal with soil maps for five Pacific Island Countries - Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. Find full soil profile descriptions, and interpretive information relating to soil classification, soil properties and crop suitability.

The Pacific Soils Portal

In October 2020, MWLR launched the ‘Pacific Soils Portal’.

This platform uses cloud data centres to overcome infrastructure barriers in national agencies and takes advantage of open-source geospatial software and resources to deliver soils knowledge on-line. The best available published soil maps for five Pacific Island Countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu) have been digitized and combined with a database containing published interpretive information relating to soil classification, soil properties and crop suitability (mostly prepared by Dave Leslie). The maps are published online as standards compliant web services (e.g., ISO 19128:2005) via a responsive browser-based web site that can be accessed from computer, tablet or smartphone. 

As part of the effort, over 400 soil profile descriptions and associated soil properties are also published. The interpretive knowledge for both mapped soil polygons and detailed soil profile reports are created on-the-fly using a custom report generation tool.   

The Pacific Soils Portal was developed as part of the “Soil management in Pacific Islands: investigating nutrient cycling and development of the soils portal” project lead by CSIRO; funding was through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

A governance group for the Pacific Soils Portal has been established, led by representatives of the five countries and supported by MWLR, Pacific Community and CSIRO.  The governance group are evaluating hosting and funding options to ensure long-term sustainability beyond the scope of a 2nd phase of ACIAR funding due to commence in late 2021.