Method | Method |

Soil characterisation to 1 m+


Also known as B) Soil characterisation to 1 m+

Date created: 2020-07-31
Date modified: 2021-01-14

Member of

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As close as possible to the southwest corner of the AusPlots plot (i.e. outside and immediately adjacent to the plot), characterise the soils by exposing the profile to a depth of 1 m+ by:

  1. digging a pit, or
  2. using a core tube or hand auger to collect soils and laying out the profile, or
  3. collecting a 500 g sample from 10 cm increments down the profile to 1 m+ (by hand auger or pit).

The minimum requirement for AusPlots Rangelands sampling is to collect a sample of at least 500 g of soil from 10 cm incremental layers down the soil profile, taking care not to sample across horizon boundaries. Record horizon boundaries and their depths, as well as sampling depths. Samples to be placed in zip lock bags avoiding (as much as possible) disruption to any peds or aggregates. If the soils contain coarse fragments they should also be included as part of the sample and the size of the overall sample increased to ensure that there is at least 500 g of soil.

Mallee soil from Calperum supersite

Floodplain soil from Calperum supersite

At some later date the extracted soil samples could be laid out in sequence to produce a profile which can then be described in terms of morphology and chemical properties in accordance with “the Yellow Book” 3rd edition, 2009.

The preferred approach is to engage a pedologist to undertake the sampling. The exposed soil profile can be characterised in situ (methods 1 and 2) to derive an understanding of the physical properties of the soil along the profile (e.g. arrangement of layers, root penetration, water penetration and storage, profile drainage and aeration) which are of prime importance in understanding ecological responsiveness. Samples (500 g) should be collected within each horizon. Where depth of a horizon exceeds 30 cm, collect samples from within each 30 cm and label appropriately.

An expensive option to characterise the plot is to transport an intact soil core (obtained using a soil corer and transported carefully) to a pedologist. It is not the intention of AusPlots surveys to attempt to collect or transport intact profiles.


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b. Soil characterisation to 1 m+

*(non-essential equipment)

Time required

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The minimum requirement is to collect 500 g samples in 10 cm increments down the soil profile to a depth of 1 m+ where possible.

For the soil characterisation at the SW corner of each plot the type of observation needs to be recorded, and if it was stopped, what caused the stoppage, the depth characterised and details of any obvious soil profiles.

If a pit is to be dug and photographed ensure the pit is aligned to maximise illumination of the pit face to be photographed at the time of photographing.

Type of soil observation

Choose from the following categories

Stopped by

Collecting samples along the soil profile

Identifying soil horizons

Digging a pit to expose the soil profile

At the different depths descriptions should include:


Indicate the upper and lower depth of each specimen, measured from the soil surface e.g. 0-10 cm, 20-30 cm

Horizon (YB p148-158)

See the soil horizon parameter.

A soil horizon is a layer of soil approximately parallel to the land surface with morphological properties different from layers below and/or above it. Horizons can be described in the field by a pedologist from a pit, core or exposure. If 500 g soil samples are collected for analysis and description back at the lab, care should be taken to not collect samples across horizons (where possible) and bags should be labelled accordingly.

(See Appendix 3 for collection of additional non- essential soil characterisation elements.)

See the dry soil colour parameter.

See the wet soil colour parameter.

See the soil electrical conductivity parameter

See the soil effervescence parameter.

See the mottle abundance parameter.

See the mottle colour parameter.

See the mottle size parameter.

See the size of peds parameter.

See the type of pedality parameter.

See the soil fabric parameter.

See the grade of pedality parameter.

See the soil pH parameter.

See the abundance of segregations parameter.

See the form of segregations parameter.

See the nature of segregations parameter.

See the size of segregations parameter.

See the soil texture grade parameter.

See the soil texture modifier parameter.

See the soil texture qualification parameter.

Additional notes

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White, A, Sparrow, B., Leitch, E., Foulkes, J., Flitton, R., Lowe, A.J., Caddy-Retalic, S. (2012). AusPlots Rangelands Survey Protocols Manual. Version 1.2.9 page 48-50. Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network and The University of Adelaide Press.


TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, NCRIS.