Assessing land use potential
The potential of our land and soils to support particular uses has shaped the nature and development of our landscapes, industries, population growth and urban areas. Land use potential information supports policy development, planning and on-ground decision making, and should be consulted when new uses of land are being considered.
Most land in South Australia is affected by soil conditions, topographic features or climatic conditions which limit land use options and productive potential. The State Land and Soil Information Framework datasets are used to show the location, extent and severity of important soil and land limitations, for example:
- high levels of susceptibility to erosion
- strong levels of acidity
- high levels of salinity
- high susceptibility to waterlogging
- low plant-available water holding capacity
- natural physical or chemical barriers to root growth (also known as impeding layers or subsoil constraints)
- low inherent fertility
- steeply sloping land
- excessive surface rockiness
- impeding layers that restrict irrigation drainage.
Land with a high potential for a large variety of uses requires many factors to be acting in harmony. However, a single factor such as a limitation pertaining to a particular soil or land attribute (as per the examples given above), can represent a key constraint to potential uses of land. To help understand this, the analogy is commonly made to an upright wine barrel, where storage capacity represents land use potential, and the sides (staves) of the barrel represent each (potentially) limiting factor. If one stave is shorter than the others, this limits storage capacity. By analogy, the most limiting factor (eg adverse soil or land condition) will limit land use potential.
The department's Soil and Land Program has developed modelling methodologies that use available soil and land attribute spatial datasets to assess the potential of land for specific uses. Other spatial datasets such as rainfall can also be incorporated within such models (in which case the term ‘land use suitability’ is used). These are predominantly ‘most limiting factor’ models, where land and soil conditions are matched against conceptual criteria such as the landscape and soil conditions favoured by a particular plant species, and particular limiting conditions (eg high salinity levels) dictate the final land use potential category.
Five categories are used to highlight levels of potential or suitability, from low to high (as per FAO 1976). These are provided as mapping or data outputs.
Find out more:
- Land use potential for agricultural crops in southern South Australia
- See our data on NatureMaps > Soils > Land Use Potential
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1976, A framework for land evaluation, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, FAO Soil Bulletin 32