Understanding Soils

Welcome to our pages designed for you to get a better appreciation of soils.

Soils are not just dirt! We often think so, because soils are hidden below-ground, out of sight. But did you know that soils are home to over one quarter of all living species? Or that globally soil are the largest terrestrial carbon pool? Soils also clean our drinking water, are a source of raw materials, and they are 3-D archives of our natural and also cultural history.

Our existence totally relies on soils – so why not learn more about them?

What exactly is 'soil'?

Soils are (nearly) everywhere. But what does this amazing, living substance actually consist of?

TeAo Māori: relationships with soil

About the mana of the soil, and soil health from a kaupapa Māori perspective.

Why bother about soils?

A life without soil is impossible for us. But which 'roles' do soils actually play, and
what do we gain from it all?

Get dirty – get to know your soil

Explore some simple exercises that help you characterise the structure, texture and colour of your soil.

How do soils form?

Dive deeper and explore the forces and materials that create our soils, including our own, growing influence.

New Zealand soils in a nutshell

What's special about New Zealand soils? And how can we tackle their sometimes confusing variety?

The state of New Zealand soils

The idea that ‘what we cannot see cannot hurt us’ could not be more wrong in the context of New Zealand soils.

Making sense of soil data

What kinds of soil data do commonly exist? What are they telling us? And how can they be accessed?