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Cuan Petheram3, Richard Weinmann4, Ron Ninnis, Diane Pearson1, Michael Lawes5 and Lindsay Hutley5

Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management, Northam, Western Australia of Environmental and Life Sciences, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia. 3CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, Australia 4Bureau of Meteorology, Darwin, Australia 5 Research Institute of the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia.
2 School

Land clearing in northern Australia is limited. Drought in southern Australia has increased pressure to develop the north There is a need to understand land clearing patterns and their impact on catchment processes

The Daly River catchment of northern Australia is largely uncleared native savanna vegetation. The Daly region has been targeted for more intensive land use as it has suitable soils and groundwater reserves that could support development. agricultural This will replace deep- rooted native trees with shallow rooted pasture species.

What effect on water balance will land clearing have in the Daly River catchment? Will this pattern be consistent across the catchment? What do land clearing patterns already observed in the catchment suggest about the future?

Study Area
Daly River catchment covers approx 53,000 sq. km and 200km south of Darwin Rainfall dominated by short, intense wet season, decreases from north west (~1400mm) to south east (~700mm) Savanna vegetation (tree/grass), with varying structural attributes 4-8% of catchment suitable for agriculture (earth soils)

Study Area History

CSIRO land system studies in the 1950s recognised the area as the most prospective region for development in NT Clearing in the late 1960s due to the Forster Report (1959/ 60) on prospects of agriculture in the NT Pilot farms were set up - first large scale clearing in 1967 for sorghum production (Project failed). The majority of the clearing was in the period 19751995. The Stray Creek subdivisions commenced clearing in 2000 for agricultural production with improved pastures. (21 freehold blocks ranging from 500 to 10,000 ha total area 101,000 ha). The NTG introduced a moratorium on land clearing in 2003 that ended in 2010, when clearing guidelines were announced. Guidelines permit clearing up to 70 % of a property, subject to specific criteria, with applications above 200 ha referred to Environment Minister for decision on need for

Study Approach
Remote sensing of evapotranspiration and spatial comparison with rainfall, vegetation type and cleared land Spatial application of a 1-D Soil Vegetation Atmosphere Transfer Model Mapping of land cover change since 1977

Water Balance equations are used to examine the cycling of water through a system. P = Q + E + S where
P is precipitation Q is runoff E is evapotranspiration S is the change in storage (in soil or the nis/images/Local_water_balance_1_new_vrsn.jpg bedrock)

Evapotranspiration is the largest water balance component Need to correctly identify spatial and temporal patterns with LUC

Point based study of water flux in 3 land cover types;
Cleared with improved tropical pastures Regrowth Uncleared savanna

Annual ET is highest in uncleared savanna Monthly ET highest in pasture over wet season months Evergreen woody species in savanna maintain water use through dry season
ET mm d-1


CSIRO MODIS AET (Guerschman et al., 2009) dataset calculated based on; Indices of vegetation greenness (EVI) Moisture availability in the canopy and at the surface (GVMI) Gridded monthly estimates of Priestely Taylor reference ET and P. CSIRO MODIS AET validated based on flux tower network data and subcatchment scale streamflow data in Daly provide independent data Towers MODIS AET performed reasonably (r2
Tower vs MODIS 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 0 50 100 Tower ET (mm) 150 200 Tower Pasture Tower Regrowth MODIS ET (mm) Tower Uncleared

=0.9 at pasture & regrowth, 0.6 at uncleared) Monthly data available for 9 years (Feb2000 Apr 2009) at 500m


Monthly average MODIS ET in the Daly River region (2001-2009) (CSIRO)





Spatial Application of WAVES

WAVES (Zhang and Dawes 1998) 1-D SVAT model that is process based and operates on a daily time step Data used; Soil ASRIS level 4 Climate 0.1 deg (10km) grid cells (SILO) Cleared/not cleared land (2005 mapping by NTG) Hydrogeomorphic units (HGUs) in the Daly Catchment (inset Douglas River subcatchment). Water Balance Modelled for each HGU using WAVES Model

Land Clearing
Areas of cleared land were mapped in the study area for 8 time frames between 1977 and 2009 from Landsat High resolution SPOT pansharpened imagery (2.5m) from 2005 and 2009 used to verify the results Spatial analysis of land clearing patterns in ArcGIS and FRAGSTATS

WAVES 1-D modelling and MODIS AET indicated clearing will decrease ET by (55mm) 6% and (32mm) 3.5% respectively



Decrease in ET with clearing highest in north

(+ve means ET is higher in native veg than pasture)


Changes in agricultural areas predicted to be small

Pattern in AET is very similar throughout year in cleared and uncleared vegetation Pattern contrasts with other regions in Australia Issue with MODIS detection of low AET values

Daly River Catchment

South west WA

Relationship of ET to different vegetation types...

Relationship of ET and Rainfall...

Land clearing still a relatively small area. Need to look at area with history of development

Only clearing at Researc h Farm Land release ADMA blocks Land Release Stray Creek

1% 2% Soils Kandosols Vertosols Vegetation E. miniata and E. tetradonta Open Forest E. tectifica Woodland E. tetradonta and E. miniata Woodland Slope 1977 84 16 69 31 0 1980 86 14 79 21 0 1985 83 17 81 19 0 1989 84 16 82 18 0 1992 80 20 79 21 0 1998 75 24 85 15 0 2000 79 21 85 15 0 2005 67 32 88 11 15 2009 67 33 90 10 19

0 97

0 91

25 75

14 85

17 82

10 89

39 60

10 74

11 70

Changes in ET with clearing likely to increase availability of surface and ground water Existing water balance by Jolly (2002);
Surface runoff 135mm Groundwater discharge 13mm Groundwater recharge approx 90mm

55mm is 23% of current excess water what is the likely fate of this excess water?

Integration of remote sensing and modelling provides complimentary datasets for analysing water balance MODIS
MODIS has superior spatial resolution and pattern detection Temporal resolution of MODIS is needed Comparison can only be made where contrasting land covers exist (not predictive) MODIS ET overestimates low values


WAVES provides realistic understanding of water balance for different land cover situations at a point WAVES is vulnerable to errors in input data

Land clearing in study region occurred almost linearly, Beef cattle production from improved pastures is the dominant activity - it has been estimated that improved pastures can achieve 20-30 times the production levels of native pastures. Forestry is growing in the region (Timber Corp, Northern Tropical Timber, Plantation Tropical Timbers and Great Southern Australia), changing dynamic (eg property sold for $15 million, purchased previously for $1.4 million 4 years previously. [NT News, 7.1.09]) We need to better understand the drivers of this change as well as the effects to allow the sustainable development of agriculture in northern Australia

Land clearing in northern Australia is associated with an increase in ET in the mid-late wet season and decreased ET across the dry season Satellites like MODIS can be used to accurately monitor and model spatial and temporal patterns in ET associated with different land covers Integrating RS techniques with modelling approaches provides complimentary datasets for analysing and predicting hydrological change. Understanding the drivers and patterns of land clearing will inform future management

Project was funded by TRaCK Access to CSIRO MODIS ET dataset granted by Juan Guerschman and Albert van Dijk
Guerschman JP, Van Dijk A, Mattersdorf G, Beringer J, Hutley LB, Leuning R, Pipunic RC, Sherman BS (2009) Scaling of potential evapotranspiration with MODIS data reproduces flux observations and catchment water balance observations across Australia. Journal of Hydrology 369, 107-119.