Faculty of Science

LEAP - Land Ecosystem Atmosphere Program


Australian ecosystems, both disturbed and natural, are a critical natural resource and provide ecosystem services through the provision of potable water and the possible sequestration of carbon. In order to use these resources in a sustainable manner we must understand the current cycles of carbon, water and energy and how these may change over time (seasons to centuries). Our group supports measurements and models to provide robust future estimates of carbon and water availability that will aid our sustainable management of ecosystems to ensure viable water resources, carbon sequestration and maintenance of biodiversity. We will provide a major contribution to areas of Research Priority of ‘An environmentally sustainable Australia through four goals.

  1. Water – a critical resource: We assess the role of climate variability on water fluxes and the impact on water supplies in vegetated catchments for an understanding of sustainable water management;

  2. Reducing and capturing emissions in transport and energy generation: We determine the role of Australian ecosystems in sequestering carbon and their likely response to climate change, climate variability and disturbances;

  3. Sustainable use of Australia’s biodiversity: We provide a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between natural and human systems with regard to the provision of ecosystem services (water and carbon);

  4. Responding to climate change and variability: We address the response of ecosystems to change and the impact on water and carbon resources.

We do this using the Earth Systems Framework

Director Prof. Jason Beringer


Australia is unique because it has a large land base with a small population, but has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases and water usages in the world. It also has a range of important natural ecosystems, many of which are vulnerable to climate change and disturbance. Given our reliance on carbon-based fuels, vulnerability of our water supplies and natural ecosystems, Australia needs to develop a strategy for the sustainable use and management of its critical natural resources. This must be underpinned by a research infrastructure and sound knowledge base of the carbon and water cycles and budgets. However, there is a paucity of long term continuous measurements of these cycles at the ecosystem scale in Australian ecosystems, many of which are unique. Our group examines how economically and ecologically important ecosystems respond to climate change and other disturbances. This will aid the mitigation of carbon emissions and management of water resources. We work across multiple disciplines to address problems of national significance in relation to carbon and water cycling and its management.

The major dynamic components of the Australian environment includes a suite of interlinked physical, chemical and biological components and processes that cycle water, carbon and energy in complex ways within the total system. Ecosystem processes and services are an integral part of the functioning of the Australian landscape, and respond to changes within the dynamic system, such as impacts of climate change and disturbance (land use change, fire, agriculture, urbanisation, etc.). However, our ecosystems are active participants in the cycles of water, carbon and energy and interact strongly with the greater environment forming complex interactions at both the local and global scales. For example, the decline and possible reversal of the terrestrial biosphere sink for CO2 has enormous implications for climate and carbon and water resources. Such predictions need to be confirmed by global and regional observation networks consisting of flux stations, concentration monitoring and remote sensing that will provide an understanding of the future changes in our water and carbon resources.

Research Approach

To address our research projects we seek to understand processes across temporal and spatial scales. To achieve this we undertake extensive field measurements (Flux tower, Greenhouse gas emissions, plant structural, physiology, ecological), aircraft (boundary layer, flux, remote sensing) and satellite remote sensing. Also the use of ecosystem environmental transects and experiments.