Measuring the movement of water, soil and nutrients is important for understanding the influence of land management on the environment and the cost effectiveness of modifying management practices.

The challenge

Measuring the effectiveness of on-ground investments

Governments, industry and landholders spend considerable resources on sustainable land management practices in an effort to reduce environmental impacts reaching fragile ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Paddock scale water quality monitoring in the Burdekin, Queensland. The Burdekin is located in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.  ©CSIRO, Aaron Hawdon

High quality and reliable measurements of the fluxes of water, sediments and nutrients are needed for providing baseline data to inform our scientific understanding of how catchments and aquatic systems behave. This critical data, which is often obtained in difficult-to-access locations, enables us to provide appropriate advice to managers regarding options for improving the condition of their land and water assets.

Our response

High quality data and measurements from a range of biophysical settings

At CSIRO, we provide a range of technical expertise encompassing the design and implementation of monitoring programs, field installations and data delivery platforms in terrestrial, freshwater and marine settings.

Soil moisture sensor sitting in a bare paddock.

CosmOz soil moisture sensor located at Tullochgorum, Tasmania.  ©CSIRO, Aaron Hawdon

The technical support includes the:

  • Installation and design of reliable, autonomous measurement systems;
  • Monitoring program design, implementation and management;
  • and Near-real-time data delivery via web portals.

We have developed instrumented systems for hillslope, gully and river runoff, sediment and nutrient loads, wetland monitoring, soil moisture sensing, marine water quality observation, rainfall, evaporation and carbon flux monitoring.

These systems have been installed in a range of locations including grazed rangelands, sugarcane, rainforests, wetlands, mine sites and near-shore marine environments.

Instrumented systems are augmented with on-ground and remotely sensed measurements that facilitate correlation to real environmental condition (e.g. ground cover or water quality) creating a continuous monitoring record.

The results

Using the data

High quality data streams enable CSIRO to provide quantitative data related to environmental processes in real time as they happen. This information is used to:

CSIRO reserachers David McJannet and Aaron Hawdon with an Evaporation monitoring at Goldsworthy, Western Australia.  ©CSIRO, David Boadle

  • underpin process understanding of sediment and nutrient movement particularly in extreme rainfall and runoff events;
  • allow high quality calibration of in-situ sensors;
  • provide data for event based modelling; and
  • link field data to remote sensing capture
  • evaluate the improvements in water quality in response to changes in land management.

The data also allows managers to make decisions about land management and equipment operations for individual streams to large scale mining operations or military sites. These systems also reduce the health and safety risks related to obtaining data in remote areas during extreme events.

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