Floodplain Underground SEnsors – FUSE
– a high-density, wireless, underground sensor network to quantify floodplain hydro-ecological interactions.
Vegetation of England
Yarnton MeadFloodplain meadows not only support some of the most diverse vegetation in the UK (up to 40 species m-2), but they also perform key ecosystem services, such as flood storage and sediment retention. However, the UK now has less than 1500 ha of floodplain meadow remaining and this unique habitat has been given protection under the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).
Floodplain ecosystems can be very sensitive to changes in hydrological regime. Improved understanding of the functioning of hydrological systems and dependent ecology is essential for optimal environmental management. Species composition is known to be tightly correlated to the hydrological regime and related temperature and nutrient levels, but the mechanisms controlling these relationships are not established.
FUSE aims to advance the knowledge on the interaction between the hydrological regime and the functioning of plant communities in floodplain meadows, at a variety of scales. A better understanding of these vulnerable ecosystems will ultimately allow improved environmental management, under current and future conditions. It offers an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the potential of combining a high-density underground sensor network with high resolution remote sensing, via a detailed modelling framework, to advance knowledge in terrestrial ecosystems.
The natural vegetation of England
Area mapThe study focusses on Yarnton Mead, part of the Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and will build on monitoring infrastructure and knowledge developed at the site over the past 40 years. Through the high density sensor network, to be installed at the site, and associated manual measurements, the FUSE project aims to improve the understanding of the functioning of hydrological systems and dependent ecology for optimal environmental management.
Suvarna Punalekar installing instrumentsFor the purposes of land management, aesthetics and security, installation of equipment above ground level will be kept to a minimum. A key aspect of the project, and one that makes it novel and ground-breaking, is the wireless networking of sensors below ground. The network of sensors will measure key variables that control plant health and composition, including soil moisture and temperature, as well as groundwater level and temperature.
These data will be complemented by manual surveys, including those related to the site’s botanical composition, groundwater and soil chemistry, soil physical properties and plant functioning. Computer simulation models will be developed during the project, which will allow these data, combined with Earth Observation data, to be used to improve our understanding of the intricate interactions between all floodplain ecosystem components.
The FUSE project, led by Anne Verhoef of the University of Reading (UoR) brings together:
experimental and numerical expertise in Wireless Sensor Network technologies (Imperial College, London: Dr Julie McCann, Mr Babu Choudhary, Dr Poonam Yadav)
related database systems and web interfaces (UoR; Dr Hugo Mills)
environmental sensor expertise (University of Southampton; Dr John Atkinson and Mr Marios Sophocleous) ecologists/botanists (Open University; Dr Irina Tatarenko and Prof. David Gowing)
land surface modellers (UoR: Dr Anne Verhoef and Dr P..J. Morris / ITC at the University of Twente; Dr Christiaan van der Tol) remote sensing scientists (ITC; Dr Christiaan van der Tol, Prof. Wouter Verhoef, Dr. Joris Timmermans; UoR: Dr Kevin White and Ms Suvarna Punalekar)
hydrogeologists and geostatisticians (British Geological Survey; Mr David Macdonald, Dr Ben Marchant, Prof Murray Lark)