Soils are a vital part of the natural environment and are very complex with different types occuring across Australia. The different properties of soils influence the types of plants and animals that exist on them, and the ways in which we may use them.
Did you know our soil scientists selected a State Soil - similar to having a State animal and flower
New South Wales - Red Chromosol
Northern Territory - Kandosol
Queensland - Vertosol
South Australia - Calcarosol
Tasmania - Ferrosol
Victoria - Mottled Brown Sodosol
Western Australia - Yellow Chromosol
A detailed description of each State soil can be found on this page.
Soil has amazing species diversity
A teaspoon of soil is estimated to contain several thousand species of bacteria
One square metre of soil can contain about 10 million nematodes and 45 000 microarthropods (springtails and mites) and has more species in it than 1km² of rainforest
Clay is a soil types that is really interesting
One teaspoon of a cracking clay soil has the surface area of a football field.
One teaspooon of a shrink swell clay (smectite) has a surface area of about 800 m², and can can expand/contract by as much as 30% as it wets and dries.
One teaspons of a rigid clay (kaolinite) only has a surface area of about 10 to 20 m²
Australia's cricket pitches use a particular type of soil - black cracking clays
Soil science is integral to developing sporting fields and golf courses that are playable in our variable climatic conditions.
Soils and Greenhouse
Organic carbon (C), present in soil organic matter, is an important global carbon pool, estimated to be 1550 Gt (1 gigatonne = 100 million tonnes). The soil organic C pool (to a depth of 1 m) is approximately three times larger than the amount of C stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere  .
Mainly because of our dry climate, organic C stocks in Australian soils are much lower than the global average, and are estimated to be about 50 Gt  .
Soil cultivation and soil degradation result in losses of organic carbon which is released as CO² into the atmosphere.
Agricultural soils, mainly through the use of Nitrogen fertilisers, are also significant emitters of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas more potent than CO²).
Emissions of greenhouse gas from Australian agricultural soils accounted for 19 million tonnes of CO² -equivalent in 2003, or about 3% of the national greenhouse total for that year  .
Land clearing and overgrazing also contribute to the loss of soil carbon.
Improved soil management strategies such as conservation cropping and reduced grazing pressure have the potential to increase the store of soil C, thereby acting as sinks for atmospheric C.
The Soils Downloads page has a range of information suitable for primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers however you may be interested to read below about the many suprising attributes of soil and to learn of the State soils.
The annual cost to industry for acid sulphate soils management in Queenslands coastal zones is estimated at $189 million dollars.
National costs to the community associated with soil salinity are estimated in excess of $100 million dollars.
Issues affecting soils in Australia
Safe-guarding the health of our soils is vital to Australia's future, from environmental, social and economic perspectives. There are many issues that affect our soils and landscapes including salinity, acidity, compaction, erosion, fertility decline and loss of biodiversity.
 Statistics are from Lal, R (2004). Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global change and food security. Science 304 1623-1627.  Jan Skjemstad, CSIRO Land and Water, Adelaide.  AGO, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (2003).