Land use

​​​​Land uses have a major effect on Australia's natural resources through their impacts on water, soil, nutrients, plants and animals. There is also a strong link between changing patterns of land use and economic and social conditions, particularly in regional Australia.

A summary of Australia's land use is provided in Land Use in Austral​ia​ at a Glance​ pdf ​PDF [1.11 MB].​

What is land use?

Land use information shows how our land resources are used. This includes the production of goods (such as crops, timber and manufactures) and services (such as defence, recreation, biodiversity and natural resources protection).

There is often confusion between the terms 'land use' and 'land cover' because of the common use of remotely sensed data (either satellite or airborne) for mapping. The distinction between land use and land management practice is also poorly understood.

classification examples.PNG

Australia's Land Use

​​​Land use mapping in Australia is conducted broadly at two scales: national scale and catchment scale. 

The map and area statistics below show national scale land use mapping for Australia for 2010-11.

Catchment scale mapping can be viewed via the National Map and the Australian land​ use profiles. This mapping has been completed across the country for different time periods.

Both national scale and catchment scale land use datasets can be accessed via the data download page. Detailed information about how Australia's land use is mapped is available on the Mapping technical​ specifications page.


 National scale land use (based on Land Use of Australia 2010-11, Version 5, ABARES 2016)

Land use 2010-11 Area(sq.km)  Percent (%) 
Nature conservation            604,671 7.87%
Other protected areas including Indigenous uses         1,163,676 15.14%
Minimal use         1,172,679 15.26%
Grazing natural vegetation         3,448,896 44.87%
Production forestry            103,494 1.35%
Plantation forestry              25,752 0.34%
Grazing modified pastures            710,265 9.24%
Dryland cropping            275,928 3.59%
Dryland horticulture                  743 0.01%
Irrigated pastures                6,048 0.08%
Irrigated cropping                9,765 0.13%
Irrigated horticulture                4,552 0.06%
Intensive animal and plant production                1,414 0.02%
Intensive uses (mainly urban)              13,806 0.18%
Rural residential              17,632 0.23%
Waste and mining                1,860 0.02%
Water            125,542 1.63%
No data                  401 0.005%
Total        7,687,124 100.00%
Last reviewed:
24 Apr 2017