Posted by: tedfloyd | March 30, 2015



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Soilcare | Drought Proof Gardens | Soil Organic Matter | Carbon Storage in Parks and Gardens | Water and Carbon in Soils | Carbon Cycle in Soils | Peak Soil | Carbon Emissions from Urban Sprawl | Healthy Microbes Create Healthy Soils | Urban Biocarbon Sinks | Soils, Water and Plants

Soils, Water and Plants

Ted Floyd Nov. 2014
Keywords: Plants, Soils, Water, Soil Health, Sustainable Soils, Climate Change, Soil Water, Organic Matter.
Life on earth depends on photosynthesis occuring in plants while growing in soils with adequate water.

drawing of tree with roots and kangarooAs ye sow. So shall ye reap.

Plants climbed out of ancient seas onto dry land 0.4 billion years ago and soils were formed under plants.
Plants are essential for the formation of new soils and the maintenance of existing soils.
Soils will degrade when there are no plants.


Plants began growing on land 0.4 billion years ago and soils developed where plants grew. Ecosystems evolved on land with plants growing in soils and microorganisms and animals eating organic matter.
Plants are the center of natural, sustainable, ecosystems on land where energy from the sun, water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is synthesized into organic carbohydrates during photosynthesis.
Microorganisms and animals eat organic matter and gain energy by respiration.
Plants growing in soils, with an adequate water supply is neccessary for life on earth and survival of the human race.
diagram of wheatDynamic Carbon in Soils

Soil health and plant growth is improved by the dynamic activity of soil carbon.
Organic matter is produced during photosynthesis by plants.
Root exudates are added to soils.
Plant material is added to soils and increases soil carbon.
Animals and microorganisms eat organic matter.
The percentage of carbon in organic matter decreases during decay.
The nutrient percentage of organic matter increases during decay.
Transpiration draws water from soils by plants into the atmosphere.
Water is needed by microorganisms and soil animals.
Nutrients are converted into inorganic chemicals and are able to be absorbed by plant roots.
Most organic carbon is converted into carbon dioxide and is returned to the atmosphere during respiration.
Humus is resilient carbon formed at the end of the decay chain and remains in the soil for many years.
Plants improve soils.

Physical properties improved by plants.

Protect soils.
Reduce erosion.
Reduce raindrop impact.
Stabilize soils.
Form aggregates.
Increase water infiltration.
Improve aeration.
Increase water holding capacity.
Soil Carbon Cycle.

The dynamic activity in the carbon cycle promotes plant growth and improves soil health. The rate of turnover of carbon during the carbon cycle promotes soil health and is as important, if not more, than the absolute quantity of soil carbon.
Carbon is the natural building block of all living organisms. In natural eco-systems carbon is continually cycled from the atmosphere to plants and then to animals and microorganisms and back to the atmosphere. All living creatures contain carbon and all organic matter found in soils contains carbon. The natural carbon cycle is essentially a closed loop with no carbon added or subtracted from ecosystems.
Soils play an important role in the global carbon cycle. There is more living material in soils than above the soil surface. The mass of plant roots is often greater than the mass of growing plant matterial found above ground level. Bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae and protozoa are microorganisms found in all soils. Insects, mites, worms, and many more animals live in the dark. Rabbits and wombats are larger animals who make their home underground.
a tree surfing on a leaf
Soil organic matter is the decaying remains of plants, microorganisms and animals. Plants are made from sugars, starches, cellulose, fats, oils, proteins, and lignins. Lignin and cellulose decompose slowly and form long-lasting soil humus. Sugars and carbohydrates decompose quickly and disappear from soils.
A bio-carbon sink can only be created in soils by adding organic matter faster than the rate of decomposition of existing organic matter.
Humus is completely decomposed organic matter and cannot be recognized as plant remains. Small humus particles are amorphous colloids, which are smaller than crystalline clay particles. The surface of humus particles is electrically charged and attracts positive charged cations and negative anions. Many essential plant nutrients are stored on the electrically charged surface of humus helping to improve soil fertility.
Soil organisms

A gram of healthy soil contains up to 3,000 million bacteria and 500,000 fungi plus actinomycetes, algae and protozoa. Bacteria have a diameter of approximately 0.001 mm and fungi filaments, 0.005 mm. Clay is less than 0.002 mm.
Bacteria prefer to grow in the thin water layer surrounding clay particles and fungi grow better in large soil pores and can survive dry conditions.
Fungi are able to feed on hard to decompose plant fibers and woody material including cellulose and lignin. Bacteria thrive on sugars and starches, especially in the rhizosphere close to the surface of plant roots.
What is more important, the product or the process?

What is more important for soil health? Humus or the carbon cycle?
The product *is humus.
diagram of wetlands
The process *is the carbon cycle.
Recalcitrant soil carbon contains humus, humic and fulvic acids and charcoal like carbons. It is resistant to decay, and may last in soils for thousands of years.
Labile carbon consists of partly broken down plant remains and living organisms and is active in the carbon cycle.
To obtain humus, with all the desired properties stimulating plant growth, many processes occur beginning with the growing of plants and addition of root exudates to the soil. Bacteria thrive in the nutrient rich rhizosphere of root growing tips. Mychhorizal fungi collect and transport nutrients directly into plant roots. Small soil animals break up and eat organic matter. Animal and microbe faeces contain soluble plant nutrients available for absorption by plant roots.
When soil organic matter is eaten and excreted by microorganisms and animals, the carbon becomes harder to break down and more resilient. The end product is humus which is recalcitrant, very difficult to decompose, and survives in the soil for hundreds of years. Humus is the end product of the carbon decomposition chain.
The organic matter content of soils is often considered to be a measure of soil health. There are many useful physical and chemical soil properties improved by organic matter. Organic matter contains both recalcitrant soil carbon resistant to decomposition and labile soil carbon still available for decomposition.
The dynamic activity of soil organic matter is important. Labile organic matter is active in the carbon cycle. It is a source of food and supports the growth of microorganisms and soil animals. This activity in the carbon cycle promotes plant growth.
Is the cycling of soil carbon more important than attempting to create permanent soil carbon? Recalcitrant soil carbon helps to improve soil health and labile soil carbon improves soil growth while active in the soil carbon cycle.
thistle showing rootsPlants in cities.

Biophilic Cities
Habitat for animals
Shady cool space
Cool the urban heat island
Generate natural biocarbon sinks and ensure climate stability
Increase water infiltration into soils
Reduced flooding
Pollution control
Education of young and old.
Climate change

Renewable energy will reduce additions of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere. Natural bio-carbon sinks absorb Carbon Dioxide from the existing atmosphere. Comprehensive programs to establish climate stability should include both natural biocarbon sinks and renewable energy.
Every year 10% of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is converted by photosynthesis to organic matter. Photosynthesis occurs in green chlorophyll of plants and algae. In the ocean, significant amounts of photosynthesis occurs in algae containing chlorophyll. In the total carbon cycle in the Earth, organic matter decomposes and Carbon returnes to the atmosphere.
Dynamic soils in town and country

Soils are continually undergoing formation and erosion.
Plants are fundamental in the formation and loss of soils.
A continual cover of plants over soils reduces erosion and soil degredation.
Urban areas have large impervious areas of buildings, concrete and tar reducing plant growth.
Irrigation, water harvesting and soil moisture management improves plant growth.
Urban spread increases impervious soils and reduces plant growth in outer suburbs.
A compact city has a smaller area and impervious soils in the outer fringe is reduced.
Variable environments.

Variable environments improve biodiversity and increase plant growth. Dry spots, wet spots, rock piles, log piles, trees, shrubs, grasses, bumpy surfaces, depressions, high spots, low spots, uneven land surfaces and contours create variable environments. Water environments, leaky weirs, wetlands, duck ponds and wildlife islands may be established in drainage lines and wet areas.

Plants are essential to maintain a sustainable world. The maximum benefit of plants is obtained by encouraging photosynthesis and plant growth. Healthy sustainable soils and water promote photosynthesis and plant growth.
Plant Plants.

Further information.

Carbon Cycle in Soils
Healthy Microbes Create Healthy Soils
Plants Soils
Soil Carbon Key to Sustainability
The dimensions of soil security. Alex McBratney, Damien J. Field, Andrea Koch. Geoderma Volume 213, January 2014, Pages 203-213.
The Carbon Farmers Handbook, 2012. An Introduction to Soil Carbon, Land Management and Climate Change, Carbon Farmers Australia © Ted Floyd 2014. Page last updated 26 November 2014. Webdesign © 2014 ramin communications.

Posted by: tedfloyd | July 31, 2013


Posted by: tedfloyd | June 20, 2013

Biocarbon in Australia

Cook global charts

What is a soil? My concept of a soil is Solids + Water + Air + Biomass + Plants. Biomass includes both living and dead material. Plants are essential for the creation and maintenance of sustainable natural soils. In the discussion, “soil conservation the need of the day” plants are the key to conservation of soils. Solids and water do not make a soil. Plants producing organic material by photosynthesis are essential for soil formation. Microbes and animals eat organic material returning nutrients back into forms available to plants and help to maintain a healthy sustainable soil. Plant roots help to create and maintain healthy soils.
When new soils are formed they have to be continually renewed by plants.
Many discussions on soils emphasise the importance of healthy soils helping plants to grow. It is more important to remember plants make healthy soils. This does have practical importance, for example “no or reduced till”. Planting vegetation on mine dumps.
How old is a soil? A very difficult question. A soil is dynamic, it is not static. A cycle of degradation and renewal continually occurs. It is important to understand if a soil is becoming less healthy or healthier. Often human activities will cause some degradation from the undisturbed natural state. It is possible to make new soils with lots of compost and new technologies. Reducing the number of stock grazing degraded soils increases plant growth and helps to grow new soils. Do you have a favourite way to grow a new soil?


Natural biocarbon sinks in soils help to produce climate stability.
Resilient humus in soils is considered to be the most significant natural biocarbon sink in soils.
Humus helps to improve soil health.

Product or Process?
What is more important, the product or process?
The product is humus the process is the Soil Carbon Cycle.
Humus in soils is widely accepted as improving soil health and increasing plant growth. To obtain humus with all the desired properties stimulating plant growth many processes occur beginning with the addition of plant material and the decay of plant material. Soil health is improved by the complete soil carbon cycle.
Soil Organic Matter is carbon compounds in various stages of decay. In the soil, organic matter is part of a dynamic, living carbon cycle. Soil health is improved by the presence of dead pieces of plant material. The living carbon cycle is very important in maintaining soil health. Many living creatures, microorganisms and small soil animals eat dead plant material, eat each other and eat the faeces of living organisms. All of this activity adds to the fertility and health of soils.
Growing plants add to soil health.

Sustainable Healthy Soils need to be, Chemical, Physical and Biological Fertile.
Biological Fertility is linked to the Carbon cycle in soils.
The Carbon cycle in soils includes,
Soil Organic Matter
Soil Microorganisms
Root exudates

Often the method of formation of humus in soils is overlooked when measuring climate stability and only the end product is studied. To obtain humus with all the desired properties to stimulate plant growth many processes occur beginning with the addition of plant material and the decay of plant material. The decay of organic matter and the soil carbon cycle improves soil health. Healthy soils improves plant growth and more plant material is added to soils and the possibility of more humus. What is more important, the product or the process? Climate stability and natural biocarbon sinks often only considers resistant carbon compounds and ignore the carbon cycle and the process of humus formation in soils.

Is the cycling of soil carbon more important than attempting to create permanent soil carbon?

Renewable Energy and Soil Biocarbon Sinks Improve Climate Stability.

Renewable energy will reduce additions of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere in the future. Natural biocarbon sinks absorb Carbon Dioxide from the existing current atmosphere. Comprehensive programs to establish climate change stability should include both natural biocarbon sinks and renewable energy. Soils are a very good natural biocarbon sink.

Soil Cycles


Energy Cycle

Bio char
The addition of bio char to soils often improves soil health and has positive effect on soil microbes and plant growth.
The manufacture of bio char and the distance in transporting bio char to farms need to be considered in the overall sustainability of bio char.
Carbon added to soil by bio char should not be considered as absorbing carbon from atmosphere and improving climate change. If bio char increases plant growth this may be considered as improving climate change.

Animals grazing grasses do they obtain protein from seeds? Is it better to allow grasses to mature and set seed? Does cell grazing allow grasses to set seed?

Water Harvesting
Passive Water Harvesting
Encouraging water to infiltrate into soils during rainperiod.
Active Irrigation in parks and gardens.
Water is stored and soil irrigated when needed. Rainwater captured and stored in rainwater tank.
Water harvesting for use in homes and commerce and industry. Reduces consumption of town water or potable water.

Nutrient Accumulation
Soil formation

Sydney Soil History
Tench map west

tench map north

tench map inner sydney
Sydney Soils

Tench map west
tench map north
tench map inner sydney
Sydney Soils
The 1st fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. The early history of Sydney was dominated by soils. Government Farm failed miserably. The soil was an infertile, sandy soil and the 1st settlers were heartbroken as they tried to grow wheat, maize and barley with yields less than the seed sown. Their little herd of cattle escaped and found better pastures 20 miles down south. By early 1791 the colony was starving and it was feared most settlers would die of hunger.

In June 1791 the 2nd fleet arrived with stores and hundreds of sick convicts who were cruelly treated on the convict ships. Sydney was saved and many times since Australia has suffered from droughts, floods crop failures, mice plagues, grasshopper plagues, salty soils, water erosion, dust storms, acid soils and many silly politicians. Despite all this farmers have fed the locals and exported food to a hungry world. In past years it was said Australia grew from the wool on a sheeps back. Our economy is now dominated by coal and gold. In the future will global warming dominate the economy and natural biocarbon sinks replace the dominance now held by coal? The greatest asset Australia posses for generating biocarbon sinks is soil.

Sydney founded 26 Feb 1788

map sydney 1788

Early map of Sydney showing 1st Government farm, behind Gov. House on land now part of Botanic Gardens.

gov house 1

Ist Gov. House with extensive gardens in front of house. Many houses maintained vegetable gardens to provide fresh vegetables, especially when rations were reduced because of reduction in Government supplies.

Government Farm established near Farm Cove (present Sydney Botanic Gardens).
Soils were shallow, infertile, sandy soils formed on Hawkesbury Sandstone rocks.
The Officers and soldiers were smart enough on parade, but were useless on a farm. The profession of the convicts was to do no work and to gain an income by dubious means. No new settler was a farmer.

The ground bent the blades of hoes. Timber twisted the the blades of axes. Summer heat was oppressive and giant ants bit everyone. The seasons were confusing and trees never lost their leaves. In many months it never rained and then a violent storm dropped flooding rains. The production of wheat and barley was not sufficient to feed a hungry new settlement. Supplies originally brought out with 1st Fleet began to run out.

2 bulls and 4 cows lost June 1788 (60 head of cattle found Cowpastures Camden 1795)
1st crop failed Sept 1788.
1st Government farm abandoned.

Several food plants grew well in early Sydney. Maize best grain crop. Vines flourished and grapes produced good wines. Melons, cucumbers and pumpkins grew well. Oranges lemons and figs best fruit trees. Most settlers with allotments possessed pigs and poultry. In early Sydney sheep, cattle and horses were rare and only wealthy land owners possessed these stock. Horses and bullocks were not available to pull wagons. There was plenty of convicts who pulled the carts and wagons.

tench map

Captain Watkin Tench published his diaries 1792 “SYDNEY’S FIRST FOUR YEARS”. He was interested in agriculture and soils and his diaries contained good descriptions of farming. Included in his diaries was the very interesting map.

Paramatta settled Nov 1788.
Farming was more successful on the alluvial creek flats and the surrounding Wianamatta shales.
Prospect Hill, west of Paramatta, is basaltic with fertile soils on the surrounding slopes.
James Ruse land grant on 21st Nov. 1788, Rose Hill (Paramatta).
Ruse was very successful and the 1st farmer who grew enough food to feed his family.
Norfolk Island had good soils and settlers sent to the island to reduce the number of starving mouths in Sydney.
Starvation became a reality in the colony.

2nd fleet arrived with stores and averted starvation June 1791.

map prospect 1792

Ponds a settlement North Paramatta, 14 allotments Dec 1791.
Prospect Hill settled 1791, 11 allotments Dec 1791.
Prospect Hill, west of Paramatta is basaltic with fertile soils on surrounding slopes.

Population 26th Nov. 1791
Sydney 1259
Paramatta 1628
Norfolk Island 1172
Total Colony 4059

There were more new settlers in Paramatta than Sydney. In these early years more effort was placed on growing food than building a nation.

13th Dec 1791 Marines left Sydney on Gorgon
Captain Phillip left for England.

Toongabbe Government farm
Hawksbury River. 1st land grants 1794. Macquarie Towns 1810, Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town, Wilberforce, and Castlereagh. The towns were built on higher ground above floods. This enabled farmers to live above floods and to farm the flood prone river flats. Farm produce by boat down Hawksbury, Broken Bay, and along coast to Sydney Harbour.
Captain Johnston received grant 1793, Annandale on Wianamatta Shale.
John Macarthur received grant 100 acres Paramatta, 1793. and 5 000 acres Cowpastures, Camden 1805.

map sydney 1798
Map 1798, Sydney and surrounding settlements.

windmill 1
1st windmill, Millers point. Windmills were built on ridges surrounding early Sydney to produce flour from wheat and maize. After 1850 steam replaced windmills.

Cowpastures discovered 1795. John Macarthur grant 5,000 acres 1805.

Birth of early civilizations
The birth of civilization occurred where there was fertile soils. Alluvial soils Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus and in China.The great civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, India and China. Early man was often nomadic, it was necessary to move from place to place to find food. Where there was fertile soils ancient man could obtain all his food from the one spot. In these areas where people settled on fertile soils he domesticated animals and cultivated plants. Early agriculture began, only a small number of people were required to produce food. Civilizations began when a large workforce was free from food production and able to build up large and powerful nations. The necessary elements for ancient civilizations was fertile soils and water.


Posted by: tedfloyd | April 30, 2013

Urban Bio-Carbon Sinks

Mangroves regenerating, Iron Cove

Mangroves regenerating, Iron Cove


Moreton Bay Fig, Wentworth  Park, with aerial roots

Moreton Bay Fig, Wentworth Park, with aerial roots


Is Soil Carbon Key To Sustainability?

Soil Carbon is essential for climate stability and essential for Food Security.

Ted Floyd

April 2013

When plants grow they absorb Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and generate bio-carbon sinks. In cities, stormwater can be harvested and the captured water used to irrigate plants increasing the size of bio-carbon sinks.

Ecosystems gain Carbon by photosynthesis and lose Carbon Dioxide by respiration. In natural systems there is a balance between photosynthesis and respiration and there is no loss or gain of Carbon. Bio-carbon sinks are generated when photosynthesis is greater than respiration.

In many farming systems, respiration is greater than photosynthesis and Carbon Dioxide is lost to the atmosphere. With carful nurturing of plants and soils, Carbon Dioxide can be absorbed from atmosphere and a bio-carbon sink generated.

Spoil Carbon is essential to prevent soil degradation and many farmers are now working towards increasing soil Carbon so as to improve soil health and sustainability. Effort should also be made to increase soil Carbon in urban areas so as to improve soil health and generate bio-carbon sinks.

In many densely populated cities, land is scarce and expensive. There are many competing demands for available land. Schemes for the introduction of nature into cities should be multifunctional. Harvesting stormwater reduces floods and if the captured water is used to irrigate plants, bio-carbon sinks will work towards reduced global warming.

Trees, shrubs, grasses, vegetables and ornamental flowers will all generate bio-carbon sinks. Perennial plants tend to generate bigger sinks than annuals. Wetlands, mangroves and seagrasses are all good bio-carbon sinks. With many plants what you see growing above ground level is only half the Carbon. Underground in the soil is a large store of Carbon.

Lignin and cellulose decompose slowly and form long lasting soil humus. Sugars and carbohydrates decompose quickly and disappear from soils. Proteins and fats react in between lignin and sugars. Sugars are mainly decomposed by bacteria and lignin decomposed by fungi.

Renewable energy reduces the amount of Carbon Dioxide added to the atmosphere. Bio-carbon sinks absorbs current Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. A comprehensive global warming strategy should consist of renewable energy working in tandem with bio-carbon sinks.

How is bio-carbon sinks formed? 

Bio-carbon sinks are generated by growing plants. Under sunlight, Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere is converted into plant material by photosynthesis, in green leaves. Organic material is transported to all parts of the plant and Carbon is incorporated into the different plant organs. Stems and roots are usually the major Carbon sinks in growing plants.

When parts of a plant die it becomes incorporated in the leaf litter on the soil surface. Animals and microbes eat the leaf litter and organic material becomes incorporated in the soil. Soil organic matter is decomposed into smaller Carbon compounds and Carbon Dioxide. Finally, dark coloured humus is formed containing hard to decompose Carbon compounds. Humus helps to form healthy soils.

Root exudates are excreted into the soil near the growing tip of roots. Up to 20% of organic material synthesised by photosynthesis becomes root exudates and they are an important source of Carbon in soils. Surrounding roots is the rhizosphere containing a high number of bacteria and other soil microbes. These microbes feed on root exudates and the rhizosphere is a highly active zone important in plant nutrition and health.

Soil carbon tends to be higher in wet, cold environments and lower in dry, hot environments.

How to generate bio-carbon sinks

Composting, manures, organic fertilizers and mulching add Carbon to garden soils. Water infiltration and water holding capacity are improved when Carbon is added to soils. Organic carbon in soils is food for microbes.

Microbes and small soil animals improve soil health, increase plant growth and increase Carbon stored in soils. Digging breaks up fungi mycelium and reduces microbe growth. Pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers are no good for microbes.

Contour gardens improve water absorption and can increase plant growth. Swales and rain gardens improve water absorption into soils.

Deep roots encourage soil carbon. Perennial plants often have deep roots. Annual lawn grasses have shallow roots.

All plant material collected while gardening should be returned to the garden. Garbage trucks should not be laden with dead garden waste heading to a rubbish dump. It should be remembered organic waste buried in landfill will partially decompose into methane a greenhouse gas more powerful than Carbon Dioxide.

Water runoff from house rooves should be collected in rainwater tanks and used to irrigate gardens. Gardeners should aim to prevent any water flowing into council gutters. Council parks and gardens should be irrigated by stormwater harvesting.

In cities bio-carbon sinks are increased when the area of permeable soils is increased. Permeable soil, increases water infiltration and encourages plant growth. Area covered by roads, footpaths and paving should be reduced so as to increase plant growth.

Tar and concrete are no good for plant growth. Urban expansion and the spread of roads in growing outer suburbs produce impermeable surfaces reducing plant growth and preventing the generation of bio-carbon sinks. Compact cities have many advantages including reduction of urban spread and reduction of the alienation of land suitable for plant growth and generation of bio-carbon sinks.

Some scientists claim peak soil is a bigger problem than peak oil. Will food production decrease because of soil degradation? Increasing soil health is essential to ensure food security.

The generation of bio-carbon sinks in farmlands and in cities is a powerful weapon in the control of climate change.

The common denominator in food security and Carbon Dioxide emissions is soil organic matter (soil carbon). The march of human progress has destroyed soil organic matter causing land degradation and the release of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere.  We need to reverse this trend worldwide.


Biophilic Cities

Balmain Town Hall

urban wetlands

Urban Creeks and Wetlands

Vegetated Drainage Line (Photo Gillian Leahy)
Vegetated Rocky Creek (Photo Gillian Leahy)

vegetated creek floodplane

The Botanic Gardens in Orange has many very large trees over 130 years old.

Big Tree Botanic Gardens Orange

Big Tree Botanic Gardens Orange

Botanic Gardens Orange

Botanic Gardens Orange

Posted by: tedfloyd | January 26, 2013



key words, soil carbon, soil organic matter, soil carbon cycle, healthy microbes, carbon sinks, carbon farming

A small book  on Soil Carbon (soil organic matter). Scientific information is presented in plain English with clear diagrams,  explaining the activity of Carbon in the Soil Carbon Cycle. Soil Carbon provides food for microbes, is a source of many plant nutrients and helps to form a stable soil adding to soil health and resilience.

Interest in Soil Carbon is rapidly growing for several reasons, especialy food security and global warming. Scientific knowledge is very limited of the Soil Carbon Cycle and it is important more people increase there understanding.

An increase in the knowledge of the science presented in this book will assist farmers, home gardners, bushcare and natural science students and will be of generat interest to many readers. This is an easy to read introductory book and it is hoped it will stimulate the reader to carry out further studies, go out side, dig into the soil, get your hands dirty, exaimine the soil, feel the soil and look for little creatures and fungi. A healthy soil is jumping with life.

Enjoy reading


Plants produce organic materials from atmospheric Carbon Dioxide by photosynthesis. Dead plant material undergoes decay in soils into Carbon Dioxide and then diffuses into the atmosphere, completing the carbon cycle.

Soil organic matter is the dead and decaying remains of plants, animals and microorganisms.

Soil microbes eats organic matter, breaking down the dead materials into carbon dioxide and releasing nutrients into a soluble form available to
growing plant roots.

When the amount of organic matter increases a carbon sink is formed. Carbon emission occurs when the amount of organic matter decreases. Formation of carbon sinks decreases atmospheric carbon dioxide and carbon emissions increase atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Farmers are able to use advanced farming technology to create carbon sinks in paddocks. Carbon sinks are formed by increasing soil organic matter. Raising the level of soil organic matter improves the physical health of farm soils, especially water infiltration and water holding capacity and these improvements adds drought resilience to farms. Organic matter decreases erosion and soil degradation, improving food security.

Ted Floyd

Jan 2013

Posted by: tedfloyd | November 24, 2012

Council Submissions


Marrickville Council

Water Sensitive Community

Comments on Draft Strategy, by Ted Floyd

Congratulations to Marrickville Council on a great program to manage water. I live in Leichhardt Council and we have no Water Sensitive Community. Ten years ago Whites Creek Wetland was completed and several times I conducted tours of the wetland for Marrickville residents.

Stormwater Runoff and Vegetation

It is important in stormwater management plans multifunctional schemes are introduced.

Global Warming

Global warming is a major environmental problem. Large amounts of carbon can be stored in soils including garden soils, wetlands, mangroves and seagrass. The growth of plants enables carbon to be manufactured by plants and then stored in soils.

Stormwater should be captured and directed onto green space where plants grow to encourage extra plant growth and encourage extra carbon to be stored in soils. Water Sensitive Urban Design schemes often encourage plant growth and reduce stormwater runoff.

Australian Government has recently released the Carbon Farming Initiative.  Marrickville Council should investigate possible ways to utilize this scheme. WSUD schemes are able to store carbon in vegetation, soils and wetland.

My web site ( )explains the importance of vegetation, transpiration and soil water infiltration in the water cycle. Water should be encouraged to infiltrate into soils and vegetation encouraged to transpire water vapour into the atmosphere. Mimicking nature should be established in urban areas so as to reduce stormwater problems.

Successful management of green space should protect surface soils, slow down the movement of water through the landscape and develops a soil environment suitable for abundant growth of microorganisms. Sustainable green space posses a living and growing landscape, with accumulation and retention of bio mass.

Resilience of Ecosystems

Green space is more resilient to adverse conditions when many different ecosystems are allowed to survive throughout the landscape. Australian natural landscapes contain many different species and a variety of ecological niches. This variable biodiversity has developed over millions of years and Australian landscapes and soils are very old and older than landscapes in other continents. These variable ecosystems add resilience to landscapes. After droughts or bushfires or other disasters there is a store of variable biological material able to recolonize the devastated land.

Water is essential for the growth of plants and the production of bio-carbon sinks. Careful management of water catchments encourages plant growth creating carbon sinks.

Soils are the frontier of the water cycle on green landscapes and improving soil properties increases rainfall infiltration and decreases runoff. Vegetation protects the surface soil, increasing water infiltration and decreasing surface runoff.

A variable landscape can be established in bushland. Dry spots, wet spots, rock piles, log piles, trees, shrubs, grasses, bumpy surface, depressions, high spots, low spots, uneven land surface and contours create variable environment. Often different ecological niches can have multiple purposes.

A variable landscape with variable ecological niches produces a resilient landscape increasing sustainability and bio-carbon stores. A variable landscape cannot be established in a year, good land management is needed for many years nurturing the environment so pants grow, organic matter grows, microbes grow and a sustainable land system grows

In urban areas carbon sinks can be created in home gardens, council parks, education establishments and other open spaces where plants grow.

In Surface Water Management ecological principles are followed mimicking the way water passed through the landscape before European settlement. Water is slowed down and redirected by porous barriers. Porous barriers or leaky weirs can be made from, rocks, sediment, trees, branches, reeds, and grass roots.

Reeds and trees can be established in creeks to help spread water through the soil. A diversity of plants including deep rooted species is maintained.

Ted Floyd

PO Box 83

Balmain NSW 2041

Posted by: tedfloyd | December 17, 2009



soils, carbon cycle, global warming, greenhouse, carbon sinks,
carbon sequestration, soil organic matter

The soil is a very important part of our plannets environment. For many years I have studied and worked with soils in several jobs. The environmental significance of soils is always a major issue in my studies of soils.

This blog is prepared by an interested volunteer, giving information on soils and the environment. Many school children have used this blog to help them do their projects. The information will also be of help especially to backyard gardners.

Water cycle in urban gardens, soil organic matter, carbon cycle and greenhouse issues are the main topics disscused on this blog.

web page

What is “Creekcare” about?
Scientific and environmental information on soils and water needed to maintain sustainable cities.

Water cycle, catchments, creeks, wetlands all interact with soils. Encouraging water absorption by soils, soil organic matter, soil structure and transpiration will help to reduce flood damage and water pollution.

Global warming is the major threat to the worlds environment and carbon sinks created in soils and wetlands will reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Soils are disappearing in cities and we need to nurture the remaining soils to help create a sustainable ecology.

Posted by: tedfloyd | November 24, 2009


Chemical fertility of soils describes the availability of plant nutrients, soil pH and presence of toxic chemicals.
Physical fertility of soils depends on soil structure, texture, water properties, aeration and many soil properties helping to make a sustainable soil where plants can grow and no excesive degradation occurs.
Life in soils where small soil animals and microbes feed on organic matter is an important component of healthy soils.

The following blog provides information on soil health and physical fertility.

Posted by: tedfloyd | November 15, 2009

WATER CYCLE Diagrams 1

1 The urban water cycle in your garden

water cycle in garden 1

Water Cycle in Urban Catchments
Water is essential for all life on earth. About three billion years ago life began as small microscopic
marine organisms. Nearly 300 million years ago primitive amphibians crawled out of their watery
home on to dry land. Humans appeared about 1 million years ago. Since then our numbers have grown
enormously and our way of life has had profound consequences for the water cycle, particularly in
urban areas.
The water cycle begins with water being evaporated by the sun mainly from the sea, which becomes
vapour and forms into clouds. Some of the cloudy vapour blows inland where it falls as rain before
eventually flowing back to the sea.
The main source of fresh water is rainfall runoff which is widely used to meet human needs. Runoff is
a vital part of long-term water supply and renews all water resources, be they rivers, lakes or reservoirs.
Most plants living on land have roots buried in the soil and these plants absorb life-giving water from
the soil. Nitrogen, phoshporus, calcium and many other essential plant nutrients are found in soils and
are carried up into the stems and leaves by water.
There is a continuous cycle of water on earth and the total amount remains close to a constant. The
driving force is the sun evaporating water from the sea, lakes and plants. Water cycle in soils is
especially important for the growth of plants. When rain falls onto the earth, water is absorbed by soils
and excess water flows over the land into creeks and rivers. Water may evaporate from soils or filter
down through the soil to the water table. Plants absorb water from soils and the water is evaporated
from leaves into the atmosphere, completing the soil water cycle.
Every creek, river and lake is surrounded by a catchment and seperating each catchment is a divide
where water flows on the other side in the opposite direction into the neighboring catchment. The total
catchment should be considered in water management schemes. When possible it is best if management
schemes begin in the upper catchment.

Artificial water cycle
In cities the man made water cycle is an addition to the natural water cycle. The Artificial water cycle
includes: town water supply, watering of parks and gardens, sewage system including the leakage of
sewage into creeks and stormwater drains. Many suburban drains always have a water flow, even
during long droughts because of artificial sources like excessive watering of gardens, washing cars and
washing footpaths.
Precipitation is water falling from the atmosphere to the earth as rain, hail, snow, sleet, fog or
When rain falls on the earth, it is first intercepted by vegetation which covers the land. A small
proportion of the rain is evaporated directly from plant surfaces. Water is collected in the upper canopy
of many tree species, flowing down the stems and trunk into the soil helping to improve water supply
to trees surrounded by concrete and tar.
During rain, water is stored on the surfaces of leaves and stems. When it ceases to rain water will
continue to drip from trees. Leaf drip helps to even out the intensity of storms and may have a small
effect on reducing flood peaks.

An evaporimeter is used to measure the rate of evaporation directly fom a water surface. In Sydney the
annual evaporation of 1800 mm is higher than rainfall, 1200 mm. The ratio between
evaporation/precipitation is the P/E ratio and is a measure of the water available from rain for plant
growth. In Sydney the annual P/E is 0.67, in summer months P/E is less than 1 and as low as 0.33 and
in winter months evaporation drops to 80 mm/month and the P/E rises to 1.7. This data indicates the
high evaporation in summer months restricts plant growth and homegardens, especially lawns need to
be watered to keep plants growing.
The above data demonstrates evaporation is highly significant in Sydney. The climate in many cities in
the world is different and evaporation is lower especially in the Northern cities of London and New
Water is also directly evaporated from surface soils into the atmosphere. Evaporation is faster from
bare soils than protected soils. Mulches protect soils directly from sunlight and reduce water loss by
evaporation. Mulches also insulate soils, keeping them cooler during summer months and reducing
evaporation. Water evaporation from garden soils is a waste of water and in times of drought should be

Growing plants transpire water into the atmosphere when they absorb large volumes of water
from soils, which travels up the roots and stems to the leaves. Water evaporates through
stomates, which are small pores in the leaf surface, into the atmosphere.
Water travelling up the stems transports minerals from soils up to the leaves where organic substances
are manufactured for plant growth. Trees transpire large volumes of water. In Sydney a large gum tree
transpires up to 200 litres of water on a sunny summer day.
Direct sunlight is the driving force of transpiration. Trees with a large leaf area transpire water quickly
and high up in the canopy, winds blow moisture away encouraging faster transpiration. Native trees are
evergreens and transpire water in all seasons, while very little transpiration occurs in deciduous trees
during winter when they lose their leaves.
Deep roots enhance transpiration. Many Australian native trees have very deep roots, up to 40 metres in
favourable soils and often the roots of large trees reach down to the water table. During dry spells,
surface soils dry out and native trees with deep roots continue to grow using water in the subsoil. This
helps to make native trees drought resistant. In suburban Sydney the roots of trees sometimes penetrate
into sewage pipes and are able to survive in the driest droughts.
Quick growing native trees have the ability to transpire 2-4 times more water in a year than the average
annual rainfall.
During the severe drought of the early 2000’s in Australia, the depth to the water table increased.

Unfortunately many native trees died in country landscapes because of a lack of water and the inability
of roots to reach down to deep water tables.
Grasses have shallow roots. Annual grasses have very shallow roots often less than 0.5 metres deep.
Permanent grasses have deeper roots and kikuyu roots can be as deep as 2.5 metres. Lawns with
shallow rooted grasses need to be regularly watered at frequent intervals during hot summer weather.
Many lawn grass species are not native to Australia and are not suited to hot dry summers and need to
be watered regularly to be healthy and green. In drought prone Sydney water can be saved by
replacing thirsty lawns with drought proof native species.
Paths and roads made of concrete or tar restrict water entery into soils, but transpiration can occur from
soils covered by impermeable surfaces if plant roots have spread under the path or road. If a tree
canopy spreads over an impermeable surface, the rate of transpiration will depend on the area of the
canopy and not on the smaller area of permeable surface.
Evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation from surface soils plus transpiration from plants.
Scientists often study evapotranspiration because it is easier to measure than to separately measure
transpiration and evaporation.

Water which does not infiltrate into soils becomes surface runoff which flows downhill eventually
concentrating in rills, creeks and rivers. A small amount of water is trapped in puddles and
becomes depression storage.
Undisturbed creeks meander through trees, bushes and grasses with flood plains waterholes, riffles and
waterfalls. Swamps purify and store water. Aquatic plants and animals thrive in natural ecosystems.
In urban areas, many original creeks are buried in pipes or bulldozed into straight concrete canals.
Living native ecosystems disappear under the sterile drainage systems of the councils engineers. Fish
have difficulty surviving in the polluted water.
Flash flooding is a problem in suburbs with concrete drains and where soils are covered with
impermeable surfaces. Roads, buildings and other impermeable surfaces prevent water entering soils
and all the water flows into stormwater drains. Natural drainage systems store water in swamps and
flood plains reducing the severity of floods. Creeks have bends and meander through a valley slowing
down the water velocity.
A short time of concentration is another factor increasing flood peaks. The travel time from the most
remote point of the catchment to the outlet is the time of concentration. In urban catchments water
flows faster, the time of concentration is shorter and flood peaks higher, compared to rural or natural
Water flowing in a concrete gutter flows about three times faster than in a grass waterway. Ecodesigned
waterways which meander increase length of the waterway and reduce the slope. Waterways
incorporating natural features will reduce the velocity of water flow and reduce flood peaks.
Straight, concrete canals are designed to swiftly drain water downhill away from upstream, flooded
areas and can increase flooding downstream. Eco-designed drainage systems remove water slowly
from flooded areas but reduce floods downstream. The design of drainage systems need to have a
balance between these factors.
Landform surrounding creek systems varies greatly, especially when the geology varies. In Sydney
creeks running through areas of Hawkesbury Sandstone geology group, are found in narrow, rocky,
steepsided valleys. The creeks flow swiftly along the steep gradient with riffle zones and small
waterfalls. These creeks have small flood plains, few bends and do not meander.
In Western Sydney many creeks meander through flat flood plains. On the Wianamatta Shale geology
group, a common landform is gently undulating hills and creeks meandering through floodplains.
Along the Nepean River valley there are extensive ancient floodplains dissected by creeks.
Many new housing developments increase flash flooding when swamps and floodplains are filled in
and built on. Culverts and bridges built in the earlier rural landscapes are now often too narrow and act
as a dam during heavy rain, blocking the flow of creeks and causing flooding upstream. Stormwater is
increased in new housing developments because of the extensive areas of impermeable buildings and
road surfaces.
Water sensitive urban design is now used in new suburban developments. Houses, buildings, gardens
and drainage systems are designed to reduce water wastage and stormwater flow. Flooding can be
reduced by reducing concrete paving, installing rainwater tanks and encouraging water infiltration into
soils. Water detention basins temporarily hold and gradually release water after flood peaks. The
severity of droughts can be reduced by harvesting stormwater and using the saved water in the home block.

Water Table and Groundwater
Groundwater is found in saturated subsurface soils or rocks. The upper surface of groundwater
is the water table.
Rainwater entering soils is returned to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration and excess
water percolates down to the water table. The water table rises during rainy seasons or falls in dry
When the water table comes to the surface a spring will form. The water table comes to the surface at
rivers or lakes. The supply of ground water helps to keep rivers flowing when it is not raining. After
heavy rain when the water table rises, intermittent springs may form.
Leakage occurs when water percolates down below the root zone and down to the water table.
The water table depth is equal to the depth down to the water surface in a well. A piezometer can be
used to measure water table depth by drilling a small hole in the soil down to below the water table.
The hole will fill up with water to the water table depth. Using two or more piezometers and measuring
the difference in the water table between different piezometers enables the direction of groundwater
flow to be determined.

Water Catchments
Drainage basin for a stream or lake is the water catchment. A catchment is the area determined
by topography where surface runoff from rain will flow downhill in drainage lines and then into
a stream. The divide or watershed is a ridge separating neighbouring catchments.
Rainwater falling in a catchment follows a number of different processes. Evaporation returns water
back to the atmosphere. Runoff water flows overland down to creeks, streams and rivers and eventually
flows to the sea. Water infiltrating into the soil provides water for plant growth and is returned to the
atmosphere by transpiration. Excess water in soils percolates down to the watertable and eventually
seeps into creeks and rivers.
Water balance in a undisturbed catchment in Sydney region
Interception by plant surfaces 15%
Runoff 15%
Seepage to groundwater and rivers 10%
Evapotranspiration 60%
Total 100%
In natural catchments 70% of annual rainfall is absorbed by soils. The amount of water absorbed by
soils in one rainy day varies. Water absorption is lower if the soil moisture content is high and water
runoff is greater during heavy storms. Water absorption will vary in different parts of a catchment
depending on topography, soil type, vegetation cover and other natural characteristics.
Swamps and bogs store water when it rains and gradually release water into creeks during dry weather.
Water is purified in swamps. Swamps are a very important feature in natural catchments and are often
filled in and built over in urban catchments.
Many creeks and rivers have flood plains. Water flows onto flat land surfaces on the sides of rivers
during heavy storms. Flood plains act as a large water storage resevoir, reducing down stream flooding.
Levee banks built on one side of a river can increase flooding on the opposite side of the river.
Natural catchments are altered in many different ways by people. The first victims are often trees.
Cutting down trees reduces water infiltration into soils increasing surface runoff and flooding. The
water table rises after trees are cut down and transpiration is reduced.
Erosion may be a problem after trees are cut down and farmed with poor management practices used
when growing crops and grazing animals.
Roads alter the water characteristics in a catchment. Roads can act as barriers to natural drainage lines
concentrating water into artificial drains. Water can back up causing flooding behind bridges and
culverts with a small capacity. Water runoff from poorly designed roads can cause erosion.
In towns and cities catchments are greatly altered and many problems may occur including flooding
and pollution.

Water balance in high density urban catchment
Runoff up to 90%
Evapotranspiration and seepage to ground water 10%
Total 100%
Rain falling onto the impermeable sufaces of roads, paths and buildings becomes surface runoff and
flows into the council drainage systems.
Home gardens, streetside nature strips and council parks have permeable surfaces. Water absorbed by
garden soils is used by growing plants and is transpired back into the atmosphere. Excess water in soils
percolates down to the water table.
Natural drainage lines, creeks, swamps, wetlands, billabongs and anabranches are filled in and
destroyed when suburban drainage systems are rebuilt. The natural features of catchments help to even
out waterflow, reducing floods and maintaining flow in dry times.
Councils often used swamps and flood plains as garbage dumps. The garbage was covered with a layer
of soil and a park created. These parks were flat and made ideal football fields and cricket grounds.
Councils called this “land reclamation”. The destruction of swamps and flood plains causes
environmental havoc, especially increased flooding and pollution from the garbage dumps.
When streets and houses are constructed land is levelled, drainage lines filled in and runoff collected in
surface gutters running alongside streets. Gutters on the surface collect little seepage from soils. Urban
drainage is efficient in removing surface runoff and not very effective in draining waterlogged soils.

Flash floods occur in urban areas. Flood peaks are higher in urban areas because there are more
impermeable surfaces and water flows faster down concrete drains. Urban drainage systems reduce
flooding upstream from the drains and sometimes flooding may be increased in the downstream water
disposal area.
In natural catchments flood peaks are lower and water flow in dry weather is more reliable. Natural
wetlands and swamps help to even out water flow in creeks and rivers. Water flow is slower in
meandering creeks, and rocks and fallen trees act as obstacles. During rain, swamps absorb water and
slowly release water into creeks during dry weather. Water infiltrates into permeable soils and some of
this water seeps down to the groundwater and slowly percolates into creeks and rivers. Flood plains are
filled in and built over increasing flood heights.

Water Sensitive Urban Design, WSUD
WSUD is complementary rather than antagonistic to the natural water cycle. Suburban areas
should be more compatible with natural hydrological and ecological processes with on-site
collection, treatment and utilisation of water flows.
Many on-site technologies are now used to reduce flooding and pollution. Often pollution loads are
higher in floodwaters and the control of flooding can reduce pollution.
Flooding can be reduced with on-site technology in the upper catchment, reducing the necessity for
concrete pipes and drains designed to carry water downhill with the possibility of causing more severe
flooding. Multiple use technologies are now commonly used. Garden water tanks are a proven way to
save water for the home garden and reduce stormwater flood peaks.
In heavy storms leakage of sewage into stormwater drains commonly occurs. Stormwater harvesting
for irrigating parks is now recommended by the State Government and unfortunately stormwater is
often highly polluted with sewage.

Posted by: tedfloyd | September 22, 2009


Whites Creek Wetland

The constructed wetlands beside Whites Creek are designed to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from polluted stormwater.

Biodiversity is increased by the creation of a dynamic aquatic ecosystem and the aesthetic features of a popular park are improved. The wetlands are now an excellent field centre for the demonstration of water sensitive urban design.

Water is continually pumped from the creek into a settling pond where sand, silt and lead fall to the bottom. Water then flows over a small waterfall into the first pond. The waterfall agitates and aerates water adding life giving oxygen.

Native plants growing in the ponds absorb nitrogen and phosphorous from water. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential nutrients for plant growth but encourage toxic blooms of blue-green algae in Sydney Harbour.

Water flows through 5 ponds and is aerated by small weirs between ponds. The depth of each pond is differnt, from one third to one half a metre allowing a variety of plant species to survive.

Frogs and native fish are now breeding successfully. Striped Marsh Frog, Common Eastern Froglet and Perons Tree Frog all add to a loud cacophony of croaking frogs on warm spring nights.

  • Lilyfield 3 km from Sydney CBD, Australia
  • Whites Creek flows into Rozelle Bay, Sydney Harbour
  • Parking, Wisdom Street; Buses on Booth Street, Walking path Whites Creek
  • Initial concept by Friends of the Earth, 1996, built by council Aug 2002
  • Owned by Leichhardt Council, Funding $244,500 Stormwater Trust grant
  • Area 1,000 sq m, depth 0.3-0.5m, estimated volume, 300kl
  • Catchment area for wetlands, 161ha, Whites Creek catchment 262 ha
  • Flow rate, 6 litres/sec, 200 Ml/year. Floodwater bypasses wetland
  • Rainfall (Observatory Hill) 1,200mm/yr

follow links to Whites Creek Wetland

Whites Creek Catchment

Rehabilitation of Urban Creeks

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