Our ecosystems and resource based economies, such as grazing and horticultural industries, all rely on the land condition and soil health. A fundamental priority for Natural Resource Management is the maintenance of land and soils, largely by maintaining land condition, and promoting soil biology in areas of intensive agriculture.

However, climate change drivers are impacting on land condition, particularly through prolonged periods of drought, which result in a decrease in surface cover and a greater % of undesirable, annual species. This may be further compounded by more very hot days which result in higher ground surface temperatures, both of which will lead to land degradation and loss of top soil, leading to a decline in pasture production, land carrying capacity and soil fertility.

Determining land condition is notoriously difficult over extensive areas such as the Northern Gulf Region, which constrains research and monitoring efforts. However, the Regional EcoAccounts provides us with our most recent “whole of region” account, based on a combination of photo monitoring points, an assessment of vegetation cover, composition and soil surface condition.

The use of remote sensing techniques is also becoming an important tool in land condition assessments.

The Regional EcoAccounts (Gobius: 2012) classed the Northern Gulf Land Health (using 14 health indicators) as being “good”, while Land Condition (as described above) was classified as in “moderate health” overall, with Karumba Plains, Claraville Plains and Donors Plateau identified as being in the poorest health, due in part to above average wet conditions in the previous 9 years which more seriously affected these lower-reach parts of the region.

Salinity is an issue which is already affecting parts of the Northern Gulf, with key risks including rising water tables as a result of intensive irrigation such as in the Northern Tablelands, increasing seawater intrusion resulting in excessive groundwater extraction along the Gulf Coast, deteriorating groundwater quality associated with water extraction from sub-artesian aquifers and the impact of soil sodicity in future agricultural development such as the Gilbert Catchment.