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Future Landscapes

Land Use Suitability

Land use suitability tools and assessment processes for increasing land use diversity and delivering better community outcomes.

What Are We Doing?

Land use planning in New Zealand currently focuses on what a parcel of land is capable of producing, with the increasing use of regulatory limits. These limits will be more easily met when land use planning considers the conditions of water bodies downstream, and the economic, environmental, social and cultural values of the surrounding community. We call this broader planning perspective ‘land use suitability’.

To enable this shift in perspective, we need more detailed understanding of the land’s natural attenuation processes, which reduce levels of contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorus, and the resilience of water bodies.

Land Use Suitability research is linking these natural processes with human interventions, mitigations and land-management choices, to make the consequences of our choices clearer and more predictable.

The first phase of this research (2016–2019) developed the land-use suitability framework, focused on conveying information about the productive potential of land and the susceptibility of water bodies connected to that land. A second phase of research will expand the scope of land-use assessments to consider a broader range of constraints and pressures, including greenhouse gas emissions.

How Can The Research Be Used?

  • This research will support the development of tools for land owners and investors to evaluate a range of land uses suitable for individual land parcels, and for central and local government to estimate land-use effects such as contaminant loss.
  • Researchers and collaborators will trial the tools and assessment processes in real-world decision-making and verify their value by evaluating the outcome of those decisions. Hawkes Bay Regional Council has partnered with the LUS team to apply their research to real-world decision-making processes.
  • A customised land use suitability (LUS) assessment to underpin every land-use decision would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, highly transferable tools are needed that evaluate and categorise land use suitability in any catchment. The first tool developed by Land Use Suitability research was a classification system based on national-scale environmental datasets.
  • A prototype land use planning support tool, the Land Use Suitability Analyser, was developed and tested using data from the Southland region, bringing together multiple existing tools (digital river network, Sparrow catchment model, Overseer nitrogen model, Land Use Capability classification, and spatial data layers with physiographic zones). This tool focused on nitrogen as the land use pressure of concern, and the impact of changing land use on water quality and farm profit. A national-scale pressure layer, incorporating lakes, is being developed.
  • The LUS concept has been discussed by the Land and Water Forum in advice to the Minister for the Environment about the allocation of nutrient discharge allowances on-farm and in a catchment. Scott Larned has met with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment staff to discuss applications of the LUS concept.
  • Environment Southland has taken a critical role in co-developing the LUS concept and providing reality checks and guidance about real-world applications. It tested application of Land Use Suitability (LUS) in the Oreti catchment in 2018.
  • 7 industry stakeholders (DairyNZ, RaboBank, Fonterra, Beef + Lamb NZ, the Foundation for Arable Research, LandCorp, IrrigationNZ) are all actively collaborating with researchers to develop land use suitability tools into industry policy or advice.

In the Media

How climate change affects New Zealand wine

Stuff, 17 October 2019

Extreme events may impact on loss of nutrients into rivers, animal heat stress in summer, or late frosts during flowering grapes. How do we make decisions about land use that can accommodate all this?

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Farming for our Future

NZ Geographic, Mar-Apr 2018

“Cynical people would recognise that we’re trying to figure out to what degree we might have our cake and eat it, too. Of course, the truth is, you can’t” – Scott Larned

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Troubled Waters

NZ Geographic, July-August 2017

Scott Larned, a NIWA ecologist with a strong interest in how ecosystems interact with water, told me it can take 60 to 100 years for rainwater falling on the upper Canterbury Plains to percolate to the ocean

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Community Involvement

  • Land Use Suitability has liaised with 6 regional councils (Environment Southland, Envionment Canterbury, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Environment Bay of Plenty, Horizons) on their current planning processes and the potential for application of the Land Use Suitability concept.
  • In collaboration with several runanga, cultural assessments were conducted at 170 sites in Otago and Canterbury, assessing land use impacts on Māori cultural values. The results of this work and its potential applications were discussed with three runanga in a hui series.
  • Land Use Suitability researchers participated in the Innovation Market hosted by the Collaboration Lab. Amy Whitehead explained and demonstrated the Land Use Suitability Analyser, and Scott Larned facilitated a discussion of land use, environmental effects and kaitiakitanga in the Te Waihora catchment. The target audience included researchers, entrepreneurs and the Next Generation Influencers.

Team Snapshot

Research Outputs

PAPERS

Evidence for the effects of land use on freshwater ecosystems in New Zealand

Scott Larned, Jonathan Moores, Jenni Gadd, Brenda Baillie and Marc Schallenberg
New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, December 2019

We used the pressure-state-impact (PSI) framework to assess evidence of land-use effects on New Zealand freshwater ecosystems. There was substantial evidence of land-use effects, particularly where land use/land cover (LULC) classes were used as pressure variables. Proportions of catchment area in urban and pastoral LULC were consistently, positively correlated with contaminant levels in water bodies and negatively correlated with ecological-health indicators. Other consistent PSI associations included positive correlations between cattle stocking rates and river contaminant levels, increased fine sediment and decreased ecological-health scores in rivers following forest harvest, and increased river contaminant levels at sites with stock access.

A strategy for optimising catchment management actions to stressor-response relationships in freshwaters

McDowell, R.W., Schallenberg, M., Larned, S.T
Ecosphere, October 2018

Defining a receiving environment × value × contaminant system and determining a specific stressor–response relationship for that system provide valuable decision support strategy to optimize management actions toward a water quality objective. Here, we outline a potential method for using stressor–response relationships to help identify the most appropriate management actions for aquatic ecosystems, using the example of a eutrophic lake.

Stressor-response relationships and the prospective management of aquatic ecosystems

Larned, S.T., Schallenberg, M
New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, October 2018

We set out a framework for interpreting S-R relationships in terms of functional forms, trajectories, thresholds and slopes. These characteristics convey information about resistance to degradation and recovery, risks of threshold exceedance, and alternate stable states. We then set out steps for implementing threshold-based management strategies, which are based on forecasting S-R relationships and carrying out preventative actions within an adaptive framework.

The land use suitability concept: Introduction and an application of the concept to inform sustainable productivity within environmental constraints

R.W. McDowell, T. Snelder, S. Harric, L. Lilburne, S.T. Larned, M. Scarsbrook, A. Curtis, B. Holgate, J. Phillips, K. Taylor
Ecological Indicators, August 2018

This paper addresses an application of the LUS concept: evaluating the suitability of land for sustained productivity subject to environmental constraints, as defined by water quality objectives. We refer to this application of the LUS concept as ‘Productivity within Environmental Constraints’ (PEC).

REPORTS

Climate change impacts on land use suitability

Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Tony van der Weerden, Mike Beare, Edmar Teixeira, Troy Baisden, Mark Lieffering, Jing Guo, Liz Keller, Richard Law, Alasdair Noble
Contract Report LC3573 Prepared for Deep South and Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, August 2019

This report aims to assist land managers and natural resource planners to assess the resilience of agricultural land uses across New Zealand and to inform decision making for land and water management regarding future climate. The research used several biophysical models to look at production systems (pasture, crop, horticulture) in three case study areas – Hawkes Bay, Waikato and Southland – and project into the future the changes in production and the impacts on receiving environments (in particular nitrate leaching), under different climate scenarios.

Essential freshwater: Impact of existing periphyton and proposed dissolved inorganic nitrogen bottom lines

Ministry for the Environment with assistance from the LUS research team
Publication reference number ME 1467, September 2019

This report for the Ministry for the Environment applies methods developed in the LUS research programme to help resource management professionals understand the implications of the nitrogen provisions in the government's September 2019 'Essential Freshwater' proposal.

A spatial analysis framework to assess responses of agricultural landscapes to climates and soils at regional scale

Edmar Teixeira, Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Eric Burgueño, Hamish Brown, Rogerio Cichota, Marcus Davy, Frank Ewert, Jing Guo, Allister Holmes, Dean Holzworth, Wei Hu, John de Ruiter, Ellen Hume, Linley Jesson, Paul Johnstone, John Powell, Kurt Christian Kersebaum, Hymmi Kong, Jian Liu, Linda Lilburne, Sathiyamoorthy Meiyalaghan, Roy Storey, Kate Richards, Andrew Tait, Tony van der Weerden
Innovations in Landscape Research, Springer Berlin, to be published 2020

This chapter describes the structure, datasets and processing methods of a new spatial analysis framework to assess the response of agricultural landscapes to climates and soils. Georeferenced gridded information on climate (historical and climate change scenarios), soils, terrain and crop management are dynamically integrated by a process-based biophysical model within a High Performance Computing environment. The framework is used as a research tool to quantify productivity and environmental aspects of agricultural systems. An application case-study using New Zealand spatial datasets and silage maize cropping systems illustrates the current framework capability and key areas for enhancement.

The Land Resource Circle: supporting land-use decision making with an ecosystem-service-based framework of soil functions

Linda Lilburne, Andre Eger, Paul Mudge, Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Bryan Stevenson, Alexander Herzig, Mike Beare
2019

Land information has in the past focused on the key land and soil properties that physically or chemically support or limit the use of land. With the increasing focus on the environmental, social, and cultural impacts of land-use decisions beyond the boundaries of individual land parcels, there is a growing need for more extensive resource information to support assessments of the benefits, impacts, and trade-offs of land-use decisions. We present a new framework for providing land resource information to support an ecosystem-service-based approach to land-use decision making. The new framework, called “the Land Resource Circle”, is first conceptually defined, then its use is explored in a hypothetical example. The Land Resource Circle is designed as a flexible and comprehensive information resource that can be used for multiple purposes, including spatial planning, land assessment, and increasing awareness of soil-related constraints to sustainable use of land.

CONFERENCE PAPERS

Shifting from land-use capability to land-use suitability in the Our Land & Water National Science Challenge

Larned, S., Snelder, T., Schallenberg, M., McDowell, R., Harris, S., Rissmann, C., Beare, M., Tipa, G., Crow, S., Daughney, C. and Herzig, A
Science and policy: nutrient management challenges for the next generation, 2017

The LUS classification system will be based on concatenation of three categories: land-use potential, contribution to catchment contaminant delivery, and pressure in receiving environments (Fig. 1). The rationale for this approach is that every unique pair of a land parcel and a receiving environment can be represented by a categorical description of the land parcel, the receiving environment, and the inherent potential for that land parcel to contribute to the pressures in the receiving environment.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Land Use Suitability

Scott Larned
Our Land and Water Symposium, August 2019

Video: https://vimeo.com/356108131

Land use suitability assessment of the Southland region

Amy Whitehead
NZ Freshwater Sciences Conference, December 2018

Land-use effects on aquatic ecosystems - strengthening the evidence base

Scott Larned
NZ Freshwater Sciences Conference, December 2018

Recent advances in reporting and interpreting water quality trends

Ton Snelder
NZ Freshwater Sciences Conference, December 2018

Land Use Suitability Programme

Scott Larned
Our Land and Water Symposium, April 2017

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