Early warning system to detect climate shifts

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The University of Adelaide will lead a world-class project to develop an early warning system for South Australia on the effects of climate change.

A $1.35 million State Government grant from the Premier's Science and Research Fund will help fund the collaborative project, which has been described as "the 21st century equivalent of the Goyder Line" - the state boundary line defining areas of reliable cropping land for agriculture.

Professor Andrew Lowe from the University's Environment Institute says observation points will be established in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, running from Adelaide's north through the Mt Lofty Ranges, the Barossa and Clare Valleys to the rangelands, and eventually into the northern desert areas of South Australia.

"This is the most significant investment in climate change understanding on the ground for any state or territory in Australia," Professor Lowe says.

"This program will provide an early warning system for ecosystem shifts due to climate change, helping to plug a fundamental gap in our knowledge about how natural and production systems respond to this change.

"This will lead to improved modelling that will help inform effective management decisions for the future, in South Australia and also nationally," he says.

The University will team with the South Australian Research and Development Institute, the Department for Environment and Heritage, and the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation to develop the TREND program - TRansect for ENvironmental Monitoring and Decision Making.

"These transects will function as an early warning system and test bed for changes to the marine, agricultural and natural terrestrial habitats," Professor Lowe says.

About 30 plots will be established and surveyed for species composition, demography and soil characteristics, incorporating wireless sensors that measure soil moisture, temperature, rainfall and digital images.

"In marine systems we will also take advantage of the naturally occurring variation in temperature and salinity found within the Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent to test how different species compete with each other under changing climates," Professor Lowe says.

The State Government will invest an additional $380,000 over three years to support research into the human impacts of climate change along this TREND line.

Other University of Adelaide projects to benefit from the latest round of the Premier's Science and Research Fund are:

  • $794,268 towards the design and development of an integrated solar, geothermal and combustion system for high efficiency base load power generation. This project aims to reduce the cost of solar thermal energy by 40% through the integration of renewable energy technologies. The project is being led by Mr Terry Kallis from GeoSolar and Professor Gus Nathan, Director of the Centre for Energy Technology at the University of Adelaide;

  • $592,708 for an aerial and satellite imagery exploitation program led by Professor Anton van den Hengel, Director of the Australian Centre for Visual Technologies at the University of Adelaide. The project aims to develop capability in modern aerial and satellite image processing and will initially focus on extracting information on carbon content in vegetation.


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Mr David Ellis
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