In this report


This report provides an account of the most significant and recent human impacts on our land.

It highlights improvements in land management over some parts of Australia, as well as several adverse trends. Our focus is relatively narrow—primarily on land use, vegetation and soil. In particular, we focus on the land management practices and landscape processes that, in our view, warrant most attention. SoE 2011 is the basis from which we report developments. This report needs to be read in conjunction with other thematic reports in SoE 2016, particularly the Biodiversity report; it also shares significant overlaps with the Inland water report and Coasts report.

The report starts with an introduction to Australia’s soils, vegetation and systems of land use. An assessment is then made of the major pressures on soils and vegetation, and the potential threats to the services and products they provide.

This is followed by an analysis of condition and trends in soil and vegetation across the country.

The effectiveness of management for sustaining and protecting our soils and vegetation under different land uses is then considered. The report describes the resilience (ability to cope with change) of the land and the current risks to land function, and concludes with an assessment of the outlook for Australia’s land resources.

The larger context for this report is the magnitude of the pressures emerging globally on land use (UNEP 2016). Stated simply, a growing global population requires increases in food production and extraction of the resources needed to build infrastructure, generate energy and maintain a growing standard of living. There are significant constraints to achieving this, including:

  • water scarcity
  • limited increases in available arable land
  • competition between different land uses, such as agriculture, mining, conservation and urban development
  • apparent plateaus in yield for major crops, and broader forest and other vegetation management practices
  • the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and increase carbon sequestration
  • increasing costs of energy and nutrients
  • widespread land degradation
  • increased waste
  • risks from contaminants
  • the likely implications of climate change for biodiversity and current land-use systems
  • the increasing and cumulative impacts on ecosystem services.
Metcalfe D, Bui E (2016). Land: In this report. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b6585f94911