Faculty of Science

LEAP - Howard Springs

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Land Ecosystem Atmosphere Program (LEAP) - Howard Springs OzFlux Flux Tower Site

Howard Springs panorama

Investigators and Partners

This project is the product of the combined efforts of many interdisciplinary researchers of various expertise and is currently operated by:

  • Prof Lindsay Hutley (Ecophysiologist)(CDU)
  • Prof Jason Beringer (Micrometeorology)(UWA)

Project Overview

A Flux Tower at Howard Springs established within the Black Jungle Conservation Reserve. The sites research and monitoring is representative of high rainfall, frequently burnt tropical savanna. Tropical savanna in Australia occupies 1.9 million km2 across the north and given the extent of this biome, understanding biogeochemical cycles, impacts of fire on sequestration, vegetation and fauna is a national priority.

Tropical savanna covers a large proportion of the Australian landscape and is important for its economic, conservation and cultural value. Through the processes of evapotranspiration, photosynthesis, respiration and biomass burning savanna plays a highly significant role in regional and continental cycles of water and carbon. Savanna is fire-dominated, indeed fire-dependant, and yet an understanding of direct feedbacks of savanna fires to the atmosphere is virtually non-existent.

In the NT, savanna ecosystems are largely intact in terms of tree cover, with only modest levels of land use change. Despite this, there is evidence of a loss of biodiversity, most likely due to shifts in fire regimes and a loss of patchiness in the landscape. Approximately 40% of the savanna burn every year and understanding fire impacts on fauna and flora is essential for effective land management. Vast areas, limited infrastructure and human resources makes the role of remote sensing all the more important for land management in north Australia and this site contributes to these needs by establishing infrastructure at a significant savanna site.

The site provides nationally consistent observations of vegetation dynamics, faunal biodiversity, micrometeorology (climate, radiation, fluxes of carbon and water), hydrology and biogeochemistry to examine the impacts of fire regime, climate on carbon stocks and GHG emissions, and impacts on habitat quality via ongoing monitoring of vegetation structure and fauna. A wide range of ground based observations of vegetation structure and floristics is planned and all will link to remote sensing of fire and vegetation change over time. Measurements of carbon sequestration through time will be achieved via the instrumentation capable of directly measuring CO2, water use and surface energy properties (energy balance, reflectance).

The tower will provide longterm measurements as part of the Ozflux network and the infrastructure is partly funded through the NCRIS TERN OzFlux facilities.

Key research questions

  • What are the impacts of prevailing fire regimes (primarily frequency, but also intensity, extent, heterogeneity) on vegetation structure and composition, habitat quality, fragmentation and vertebrate faunal biodiversity?
  • How does vegetation structure, climate drivers and fire regime influence savanna carbon sequestration rate?
  • How can fire management contribute to greenhouse gas abatement and carbon sequestration in savanna ecosystems?
  • What are the impact of climate change on fire regimes and subsequent feedbacks to savanna carbon and water cycles ?
  • The Site Location

    The Howard Springs flux station is located south east of Darwin in the Black Jungle Conservation Reserve. It was established in August 2001 and is managed by The University of Western Australia and Charles Darwin University. The Howard Springs OzFlux Site is located at: Latitude: -12.49 S Longitude: 131.15 E

    Site Characteristics

    The flux tower site is classified as an Eucalypt open forest savanna with woollybutt, stringybark and a sorghum tall grass understory and average tree height is 14–16m. Stem density: 661 stems/ha (total stems 684 stems/ha). Basal area: 9.66 m2/ha. LAI - Total: 0.79 Overstorey: 0.60 Understorey: 0.19

    Biomass Harvest - mean live biomass: 66.25 gm-2 (standard error: 22.29). Mean standing dead biomass: 20.54 gm-2 (standard error: 8.34). Mean litter biomass: 297.75 gm-2 (standard error: 33.31). Total mean biomass: 384.54 gm-2 (standard error: 37.09).

    Soil- Clay: 4.10% (volume <1µm); Silt: 37.90% (volume <1µm); Sand: 57.93% (volume <1µm); Sand (>1 µm): 7.45% (total weight)

    Elevation of the site is close to 64m and mean annual precipitation is 1750mm. Maximum temperatures range from 30.4°C (in July) to 33.2°C (in November), while minimum temperatures range from 19.3°C (in July) to 25.4°C (in November). Therefore, the maximum and minimum range varies from 7°C (wet season) to 11°C (dry season).


    Data from this site is available through the OzFlux data portal international FLUXNET database or via the investigators email jason.beringer[@]uwa.edu.au

    Further Information


    This site is produced by Prof. Jason Beringer, UWA, School of Earth and Environment and proudly part of the Australian Flux Network(OzFlux) and partly supported by the Australian NCRIS Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). Australian Research Council grants supported this work (DP0344744, LP0774812, DP0772981, LP0990038, DP130101566 and FT110100602)

    HowardSprings flux tower data

    HowardSprings  flux tower data

    HowardSprings  flux tower data

    Howard flux tower data

    HowardSprings  flux tower data

    HowardSprings  flux tower data

    HowardSprings  flux tower data HowardSprings  flux tower data

    Howard  flux tower data

    Instrument Type Make Model Situation
    Bidirectional pyranometer / pyrgiometer Kipp and Zonen CNR4 36m
    Combination cup anemometer / wind vane
    (6 replicates)
    RM Young 03002 1m, 2m, 4m, 8m, 16m, 32m
    Infra-red gas analyser LiCOR LI-7500 36m
    Quantum sensor Apogee SQ-110  
    Soil heat flux plate
    (4 replicates)
    Hukseflux HFP01 -0.08m
    Soil temperature probe
    (4 replicates)
    Campbell Scientific TCAV All at -0.08m
    Solar regulator Prostar PS-30M  
    3D Sonic anemometer Campbell Scientific CSAT3 36m
    Temperature and Relative Humidity sensor
    (6 replicates)
    Campbell Scientific HMP-45C 1 each at 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 & 32m
    Soil Moisture Probe
    (8 replicates)
    Campbell Scientific CS-616 4 at -0.1m
    & 1 at each of -0.2, -0.4, -0.8, -1.5m
    Unidirectional sunshine pyranometer Delta SPN1 36m
    Logger Campbell Scientific CR3000 1.5m
    Multiplexor Campbell Scientific AM25T 1.5m
    Rain gauge Hydrological Services TB3 36m
    Profile gas analyser LiCOR LI-840 32m
    Profile pressure line Vaisala CS105 16m
    Profile air pressure Vaisala CS106 16m
    Flow meter Aalborg GFM17 16m
    Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) sensor Campbell Scientific Quantum LI-190 2 at 36m, one facing upward, one facing downward
    4-channel light sensor Skye Instruments SKR 1850 2 at 36m, one facing upward, one facing downward
    HowardSprings live camera

    This image is taken by a Vivotek Network Camera (IP8362) and is updated every 30 minutes. The timestamp is provided in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

    Howard MODIS data

    The data was obtained from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics (ORNL DAAC) (http://daac.ornl.gov/MODIS/). The ORNL DAAC provides MODIS Land Product Subsets for model validation, site characterisation and remote-sensing purposes.

    Daily updated data was obtained from this provider, with an area of 3x3km extracted using Python script written by Mr. Darien Pardinas-Diaz (darien.pardinas-diaz@monash.edu). The plots were produced using QC Filter Conditions 000 and 001. Condition 000 represents the highest QC Filter possible and 001 represents a reliable and usable QC Filter, though not to the standard of 000.

    Howard modis