Integrating landscape properties and cutting-edge science to explain why water quality varies

Explore the science behind LandscapeDNA

A new approach to water quality modelling better accounts for the influence of the natural landscape. Researchers in the Physiographic Environments of New Zealand (PENZ) project, part of the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge, have developed a new methodology to integrate water quality data with existing map layers (such as soil, geology, topography, and land cover) to map and model the processes that control the variability of water quality.

Physiographic science works ‘backwards’, using the composition of water to trace the water’s journey back through the landscape to understand the landscape controls over water composition, and hence quality. Read more about the dominant process controlling water quality.

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Interactive Map

Explore your landscape setting, your region, and surface water catchment.



Actions are methods that can be used to reduce the amount of contaminants in a waterway. They are based on the natural processes controlling the contaminant at either the source as land-based treatment or interception of contaminants along hydrological pathways.

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Developed by

Dr. Lisa Pearson Lead Earth and Environmental Scientist
Dr. Clint Rissmann Director and Principal Scientist
Michele Rutherford Co-ordinator
Ruby Meades Graphics and Animation
Liam Diprose Web Development
5 farmers from Southland Farmer Steering Group

In collaboration with and funding from

Ministry for Primary IndustriesOur Land and Water
Living Water Ravensdown Balance F.A.R Deer Industry Southern Institute of Technology Federated Farmers

Intention for Use

Our aspiration is that LandscapeDNA becomes a reference point of trusted and highly relevant information for land users and communities alike. The primary motivation behind LandscapeDNA is to provide science that can be trusted directly into the hands of land users. It is designed to support land users in their decision making for environmental management.

It is very important that this site is not used exclusively as the basis for management and investment decisions. It does not replace the need for site specific due diligence and expert advice.

The data used to inform Physiographic Environments of New Zealand is typically at 1:50,000 scale which is accurate to approximately ±100 meters on the ground.