Landscape DNA

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

Water quality varies widely between regions around New Zealand, even where there are similar land uses and pressures. This is because the natural landscape has a much bigger influence on water quality than land use alone. This new environment classification was developed to help landowners and catchment groups match their work to improve water quality to the landscape factors which control it, providing higher certainty that their efforts will make a difference.

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.

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, and as a last resort bottom of catchment methods that treat contaminants within rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

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