Dataset: Digital Atlas of Australian Soils



This dataset and its metadata statement were supplied to the Bioregional Assessment Programme by a third party and are presented here as originally supplied.

The digital version of the Atlas of Australian Soils was created by NRIC (National Resource Information Centre) in 1991 from scanned tracings of the published hardcopy maps (1 - 10), Northcote et al. (1960 - 1968).

The Atlas of Australian Soils (Northcote et al, 1960-68) was compiled by CSIRO in the 1960's to provide a consistent national description of Australia's soils. It comprises a series of ten maps and associated explanatory notes, compiled by K.H. Northcote and others. The maps were published at a scale of 1:2,000,000, but the original compilation was at scales from 1:250,000 to 1:500,000.

Mapped units in the Atlas are soil landscapes, usually comprising a number of soil types. The explanatory notes include descriptions of soils landscapes and component soils. Soil classification for the Atlas is based on the Factual Key.

The Factual Key (Northcote 1979) was the most widely used soil classification scheme prior to the Australian Soil Classification (Isbell 2002). It dates from 1960 and was essentially based on a set of about 500 profiles largely from south-eastern Australia. It is an hierarchical scheme with 5 levels, the most detailed of which is the principal profile form (PPF). Most of the keying attributes are physical soil characteristics, and can be determined in the field.

The "mapunit" code contained within the digital dataset represents and links to the soil landscapes described in the explanatory notes. (explanatoryNotes.txt).The dominant and top 5 soils (as PPF classes) listed within the explanatory notes have been estimated from the text and are also included with this dataset (muppf5.txt).

Additional work by various groups has added some value to the dataset by providing look up tables that link to some interpretations of the mapping units or dominant soil type (PPF). Some examples of this include:

  1. McKenzie, N. J. and Hook, J. (1992). Interpretations of the Atlas of Australian Soils. Consulting Report to the Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN). CSIRO Division of Soils Technical Report 94/1992.

  2. McKenzie NJ, Jacquier DW, Ashton LJ and Cresswell HP (2000) Estimation of soil properties using the Atlas of Australian Soils. CSIRO Land and Water Technical Report 11/00, February 2000.

  3. Ashton, L.J. and McKenzie, N.J. (2001) Conversion of the Atlas of Australian Soils to the Australian Soil Classification, CSIRO Land and Water (unpublished).

Dataset History

The Digital version of the Atlas of Australian Soils was constructed from scanned tracings of the published hardcopy source maps, the thirteen sheets of the Atlas of Australian Soils. Use of the hard copies was necessary as the original printer's separates could not be located. The positional errors inherent in the original source maps would have been added and errors introduced by subsequent processes, beginning with the natural process of paper stretch. This was followed by the data processing steps which were, in order of execution: tracing, manual digitizing, transformation of coordinates and rubber sheeting to edge-match the digital versions of the adjacent sheets.

Dataset Citation

Bureau of Rural Sciences (2009) Digital Atlas of Australian Soils. Bioregional Assessment Source Dataset. Viewed 29 September 2017,

General Information