4632.0.55.001 - Discussion Paper: From Nature to the Table: Environmental-Economic Accounting for Agriculture, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/11/2017  First Issue
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A physical asset account for soil resources measures the area of different types of soils over time and characteristics of changes in soils. Factors influencing soil area include changes in land cover (e.g. urban expansion resulting in loss of agricultural soil), changes in soil quality (e.g. acidification) and changes in soil environment (e.g. desertification). The framework restricts the scope of soil resources to land used for agriculture and forestry.


Soil is a pivotal resource for healthy communities and a significant enabler for agriculture and forestry production. It plays a fundamental role in the carbon cycle and the water cycle, as well as being the engine room of food production. Soil offers economic value (e.g. building materials, sanitation purification, healthy vegetation support), environmental value (e.g. carbon sink, sorbant for chemicals, nutrient cycling/storage, supporting biodiversity) and social value for aspects such as garden lawns and recreation services (footnote 1). In this way, an examination of combined economic, social and environmental impacts can be supported by environmental-economic accounting.

Australia has adopted a range of approaches to more sustainable soil management. As an example, the National Soil Research, Development and Extension Strategy is Australia’s first national, coordinated approach to managing its soils. The overarching vision of this strategy is ‘securing Australia’s soil for profitable industries and healthy landscapes’.The strategy addresses a diverse range of policy concerns, spanning: comprehensive assessment of soil; investment expenditures; research and development goals and plans; and implementation actions.

At present, only very limited data exist on a national scale in respect of soil condition and soil issues. Nevertheless, environmental accounts provide a viable means by which measures of changes in biophysical characteristics of soil could be linked to improved farm profitability at both local and national scales.


There are no readily available data sources to populate an asset account for Australia’s forest and agriculture soil resources. Further effort will be required to examine data opportunities. For example, the Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program and the Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia provide information and maps on Australia’s soils and soil attributes for a variety of different uses including research, management and policy. These data sources will be investigated to test their suitability for SEEA applications. In this way, the scope of soil asset accounts may be expanded with a variety of properties including, acidity (pH), soil carbon, available water storage, salinity and erodibility. An empty shell table for a soil asset account is available in Table 24 to demonstrate how data could be presented.

1. Campbell A (2008) Managing Australia's Soils: A Policy Discussion Paper. Prepared for the National Resource Management Ministerial Council <back