FUSE: Floodplain Underground SEnsors- A high-density, wireless, underground Sensor Network to quantify floodplain hydro-ecological interactions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Improved understanding of the functioning of hydrological systems and dependent ecology is essential for optimal environmental management. Floodplains in particular are important due to the ecosystem services they provide. The species composition of floodplain vegetation and their ecosystem functions (e.g. leaf CO2 uptake and transpiration) are very sensitive to the soil hydrological regime, which is highly variable both spatially and temporally. The hydrological regime also affects the temperature and nutrient regime of the root environment, leading to indirect impacts on vegetation. However, the mechanisms controlling these interdependencies are not well established. The proposed project, FUSE, aims to advance this knowledge at a variety of scales. A better understanding of these vulnerable ecosystems will allow improved environmental management, under current and future conditions. A field study is proposed in the Oxford Floodplain (OFP). This study will build upon an existing hydrological monitoring network currently in place in the Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The aims will be achieved by a sophisticated combination of environmental data and computer models. This involves state-of-the-art tools: a Wireless Underground Sensor Network (WUSN) and related monitoring of environmental variables, as well as high-resolution Earth Observation (EO, i.e. satellite) data. WSNs are a relatively recent application of technology; uptake of this technology by environmental scientists enables continuous monitoring that is both scalable and less intrusive on its surroundings. It is desirable for land-based sensor networks to have few or no above-ground components, for aesthetic and security reasons, as well as to avoid interference with land management practices. Recently, this has led to the introduction of WUSNs where all or at least the majority of the sensing and transmitting components are underground. WUSNs are rare, especially in the UK, and have not been tested long-term in a challenging environment such as the OFP. Reliability and the potential distance of data transmission depend on a number of factors, including the soil type, sensor installation depth, soil moisture content and technological factors. These will be researched extensively in the FUSE project, initially using existing data on the OFP hydrological regime, soils and vegetation height/density. The precise design of the WUSN will be determined with the aid of a geostatistical procedure. FUSE will allow researchers to reliably measure underground spatial variability at hitherto unachievable resolutions of less than a metre. The project will use a mesh of simple wireless sensor nodes previously developed at Imperial College ('Beasties'). These nodes will gather environmental data, and route these to a base-station that transmits to a remote database via GPRS. The low-cost, low-power Beasties have been used extensively in similar, but less challenging environments. The enhanced sensor technology will be entirely transferable. Theoretical tools in FUSE comprise of a simulation model (SCOPE_SUB), that can be used to describe and predict the interaction between the soil (soil moisture content, soil temperature and nutrient status), the vegetation (root water/nutrient uptake, CO2 uptake and transpiration), and the hydrometeorological regime. Furthermore we will use geospatial models to spatially interpolate between measured, modelled and EO data, thereby increasing data-density. EO data will serve to guide the continuous (in time) simulation model predictions. In that way high resolution maps of key soil and vegetation variables can be constructed. Computer Science tools, e.g. a so-called Integrated Development Environment to help environmental scientist to set up and test the WUSN, and a Web portal for quality control, sensor calibration, time series- and geospatial-analysis, parameter estimation and real-time model output, will be developed.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description Floodplain meadow ecosystems in the UK consist of highly biodiverse and ecologically sensitive vegetation communities. They face serious anthropological disturbances leading to their rapid decline in terms of area and also species diversity. Immediate and efficient conservation efforts are needed for their management, including regular monitoring. These efforts are required to understand the interlinking between the vegetation and its immediate environment. The use of advanced datasets such as hyperspectral remote sensing data and sophisticated modelling techniques is novel in the context of the study of these challenging communities. In the project, the potential of these state-of-the-art datasets and a physically based Soil-Vegetation-Atmosphere-Transfer (SVAT) model have been tested for monitoring of UK meadow vegetation and to further understanding of its processes at very fine spatial and temporal scales.
The study site was a typical example of MG4 (mesotrophic grassland) type of meadow as per the British National Vegetation Classification system. The combined application of hyperspectral remote sensing, in-situ micrometeorological monitoring and a SVAT model, with the aim to study the vegetation processes (such as photosynthesis and evapotranspiration) of a species rich MG4 floodplain ecosystem, was studied in the project. The SVAT model used is the SCOPE model, developed by van der Tol et al. (2009), which is a coupled optical-thermal radiative transfer, energy balance, photosynthesis and fluorescence model. The ability of the model to produce directional, fine spectral resolution canopy spectral reflectance makes it possible to utilize remote sensing data for model parameterization. The key questions that have been addressed in this project are: whether hyperspectral remote sensing data are capable of distinguishing between different sub-types or species of meadow vegetation; whether these data along with the radiative transfer models can be used to estimate key biophysical parameters (specially Leaf Area Index (LAI)); and whether this retrieved LAI, when used as a SVAT model parameter, can accurately estimate vegetation processes such as photosynthesis and evapotranspiration.
Exploitation Route The study shows that the combination of hyperspectral remote sensing and specialist mechanistic SVAT models are a useful tool to monitor the species distribution of these hydro-ecologically complex grasslands. The findings may be used to study and monitor (long-term) the changes in biodiversity of grasslands, e.g, with changes in hydrology, climate, and management.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
 
Description Deriving biophysical variables from hyperspectral imagery using a SVAT model inversion - testing the method for a floodplain meadow system. Reference:GB13-10
Amount £10 (GBP)
Funding ID GB13-10 
Organisation UK Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 05/2013 
End 12/2013
 
Description Deriving biophysical variables from hyperspectral imagery using a SVAT model inversion - testing the method for a floodplain meadow system. Reference:GB13-10
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID GB13-10 
Organisation UK Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2013 
End 09/2014
 
Description FELIX Studentship Suvarna Punalekar
Amount £66,000 (GBP)
Organisation Felix Scholarship 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2011 
End 10/2014
 
Description FELIX Studentship Suvarna Punalekar
Amount £66,000 (GBP)
Organisation Felix Scholarship 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2011 
End 09/2015
 
Description Innovate-UK "Satellites and Agri-Food" programme
Amount £239,000 (GBP)
Funding ID TS/P002161/1 
Organisation TSB 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2018
 
Description Collaboration with team of Professor Wout Verhoef and Christiaan van der Tol at University of Twente 
Organisation University of Twente
Country Netherlands, Kingdom of the 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The UoR FUSE team helped these partners to test and improve their SCOPE radiative transfer model, that is widely used for hyperspectral remote sensing.
Collaborator Contribution They helped with the radiative transfer modelling related to the project and co-supervised PhD student Suvarna Punalekar in this area. Dr Punalekar is now working on an Innovate-UK follow-on project
Impact Punalekar, S., Verhoef, A., Tatarenko, I. V. , van der Tol, C., Macdonald, D. M. J. , Marchant, B., Gerard, F., White, K. and Gowing, D. (2016) Characterization of a highly biodiverse floodplain meadow using hyperspectral remote sensing within a plant functional trait framework. Remote Sensing, 8 (2). 112. ISSN 2072-4292 doi: 10.3390/rs8020112 Two further papers in progress
Start Year 2011
 
Description Naked Scientist Radio interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Life interview on the NERC-funded FUSE project for the 'Naked Scientists' Radio Show and Podcast, based at the University of Cambridge and broadcast on BBC radio to the Eastern Regions, 11 March 2012.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL https://www.thenakedscientists.com/podcasts/naked-scientists/sensors-and-sensibility
 
Description Poster presentation: Application of hyperspectral remote sensing and radiative transfer model for monitoring optical functional traits of key species in a floodplain meadow, Space - the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring? Stakeholder Symposium organised by Zoological Survey of London, UK (29th Apr, 2016). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation: Application of hyperspectral remote sensing and radiative transfer model for monitoring optical functional traits of key species in a floodplain meadow, Space - the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring? Stakeholder Symposium organised by Zoological Survey of London, UK (29th Apr, 2016) by PhD student Suvarna Punalekar.

This created large interest from stakeholder users, e.g. those interested in biodiversity such as Natural England, Environment Agency, about how to monitor biodiversity from remote sensing. Several follow-up exchanges resulted
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk on FUSE project at Floodplain Meadows Partnership workshop (26 May 2011) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited speaker at Floodplain Meadows Partnership workshop: "Improving our understanding of the Oxford Meads". Talk on FUSE project. Oxford, UK, 26 May 2011.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011