Australian physiographic units

Submitted by on Wed, 27/09/2023 - 09:05

A list of physiographic units in Australia that provide a consistent framework for mapping soils and landforms at national and regional scales, compiled at a continental scale. The list was defined by Pain et al. (2011;* and built on the work of Jennings and Mabbutt (1986). It recognises a subdivision of the Australian onshore continent into three physiographic divisions, 23 physiographic provinces and 220 physiographic regions. The three divisions correspond broadly with the geological subdivision into the western shields, the central basins and the eastern fold belts. Provinces can be used to make interpretations about landscape processes at the broadest scale; descriptors for provinces include a name, geology, structure, and broad regolith types. The primary descriptors for regions are geographic name and a simple text description including major geologic and geomorphic features. Bounding box coordinates in decimal degrees are included. Each physiographic unit is also identified by a numeric code (one, three, and five digits for divisions, provinces and regions, respectively). For physiographic units within Western Australia, notations provided include extensions to five-digit numbering for divisions and provinces, to allow better characterization for database purposes. For Western Australian physiographic units, an alphabetical code is also listed; these consist of three upper-case letters for the division and provinces, with an additional two lower-case letter suffix for regions. These alphabetical codes are used by the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) to spatially assign regolith units to the correct physiographic unit during mapping. GSWA describes a physiographic unit as 'A named geomorphological entity with internal coherence in its landform characteristics and landform evolutionary history. At the lowest levels, physiographic units reflect the underlying geology and have similar groupings of regolith materials that are related to the landform types, their evolution, and the underlying bedrock.'
*Pain, C, Gregory, L, Wilson, P and McKenzie, N (2011), The physiographic regions of Australia – Explanatory notes 2011; Australian Collaborative Land Evaluation Program and National Committee on Soil and Terrain (dataset available at

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