Identification of controls on the metabolism of the Swan-Canning Estuary using high-frequency data and numerical modelling

Identification of controls on the metabolism of the Swan-Canning Estuary using high-frequency data and numerical modelling

Status: Complete


  • Carolyn Oldham
    Professor, Environmental and Mining Engineering, UWA
  • Matt Hipsey
    Associate Professor, School of Agriculture and Environmental, UWA
  • Amina Saeed

Project Summary

The research was a collaborative initiative between the Department of Biodiversity, Conversation and Attractions (DBCA) and the Woodside Riverlab at UWA, to create an Estuary Observatory, which aimed to:

1. Use high temporal resolution field data to identify drivers and controls on the metabolism of the Swan-Canning estuary.

2. Improve the ability of the Swan-Canning Estuarine Response Model (SCERM) to predict ecosystem metabolism and estuarine health.

The project established a permanently moored station in the Swan Canning River near the University of Western Australia. A solar-powered buoy  housed high accuracy, high stability sensors for continuous high frequency monitoring of key parameters such as dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a (Chl-a), salinity, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), fluorescent dissolved organic matter (fDOM), temperature, windspeed and direction and solar radiation. The water quality sensors were deployed at different water depths (i.e. surface, middle, and close to the sediments), while the meteorological sensors were placed above the water line. The high-frequency data was telemetered through a 3G mobile network to a data server to allow real-time viewing.  The high frequency data allowed calibration and validation of process modules within SCERM and the subsequent testing of drivers of estuary metabolism. Improved understanding and modelling capability of estuarine metabolism will facilitate management decisions to support the health of the Swan-Canning estuary. The research team progressed the design and specifications of the system, through:

1. Identifying water quality and weather variables required for metabolism monitoring, identifying appropriate and available sensors for the monitoring station, and working with Unidata Ltd to specify the data telemetry and power requirements.

2. Prototyping the proposed monitoring station.

3. Working with Department of Biodoversity, Conversation and Attractions (DBCA) and Department of Transport to select a suitable site for permanent mooring and obtain necessary approvals.

This platform may be used as core infrastructure for other researchers to add additional sensors (e.g. current meters and wave gauges), thereby creating a multi-functional platform with wide applicability across research groups.