Aerial image of a rural town with different coloured crop fields surrounding the town

Agricultural and forestry landscapes provide food, water, recreation, health, environmental and economic benefits.

Assessing landscape systems and trends for agricultural sustainability

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is developing innovative assessment techniques to measure, monitor and predict the condition of Australian agricultural and forestry landscapes to increase productivity and reduce carbon emissions

  • 9 April 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

National and global challenges

Our natural resources of soil, water, plants and animals are central to our economy, health and wellbeing.

In order to achieve the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship goal of increasing productivity and reducing carbon emissions we need to understand the interactions between our natural resources, how we use them and the health and productivity across the whole landscape, from the farm to the consumer.

This requires integrating a range of data to measure what is happening; from the effects of land degradation, to the whole greenhouse gas cycle and ways to account for it, to the real and interacting drivers of resource use efficiency and productivity.

The Landscape Systems and Trends Theme aims to measure, monitor and predict the condition of Australia’s landscapes, at the farm level as well as in a national and global context.

Priority research areas

We need to understand the interactions between our natural resources and the health and productivity across the whole landscape, from the farm to the consumer.

Our priority research areas include:

  • developing integrated data and information that describes our agriculture and landscapes across space and time
  • assessing productivity and environmental impacts across industries, regions and life-cycles focusing on the use of resources such as water and energy
  • developing policy-relevant science to understand drivers of changes in landscapes and enable better land use decisions.

Some examples of our research include:

Sustainable Development for Northern Australia: a comprehensive science review

The Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review 2009 examines a range of options for use of land and water in northern Australia and the likely consequences of those uses, for communities, businesses and the environment.

Assessing greenhouse gas emissions from beef and sheep enterprises

CSIRO research is examining how much greenhouse gas is produced by beef and sheep enterprises and the potential for offsetting these emissions on the farm.

Land Monitor: mapping soil salinity for better land management

CSIRO scientists have developed a technique using satellite maps to estimate the present and future extent of salinity in south Western Australia.

New approach to mapping forest biomass to measure carbon stores

CSIRO is collaborating in a NASA-funded project, using a CSIRO-designed lidar instrument, to help develop new methods for mapping forest biomass and measuring carbon stores on a large scale.

Measuring the water footprint of agriculture from 'paddock to plate'

A method for measuring the environmental impacts of water used in crop and food production is helping businesses develop more sustainable practices and consumers make wiser choices.

Towards more efficient forest assessment

CSIRO scientists have developed a prototype forest measurement device named ECHIDNA™ to help managers run their forestry operations more efficiently.
Using laser light to scan and assess the forest  


Working across national and international scales, the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship will build on the components needed to substantially improve national capacity in observation, prediction and investment in land use and land management change – with a specific target to support emerging national environmental information systems.

Some of our key partners include:

  • Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program (ACLEP) and collaborating state and territory agencies
  • National Committee on Soil and Terrain
  • Industry and farmer groups
  • Rural industry research and development corporations.

Find out more about the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.