Faculty of Science

LEAP - Sturt Plains

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Land Ecosystem Atmosphere Program (LEAP) - Sturt Plains OzFlux Flux Tower Site

Sturt Plains 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

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

  • Provide information as part of a larger network of flux towers established along the North Australian Tropical Transect (NATT) gradient, which extends ~1000km south from Darwin 12.5°S. The towers provide flux data across the savanna’s heterogeneous ‘top end’ ecosystems including open forest savanna, open savanna woodland and seasonally inundated floodplains.
  • Examine spatial patterns and processes of land-surface-atmosphere exchanges (radiation, heat, moisture, CO2 and other trace gasses) across scales from leaf to landscape scales within Australian savannas.
  • Determine the climate and ecosystem characteristics (physical structure, species composition, physiological function) that drive spatial and temporal variations of carbon, water and energy fluxes from north Australian savanna.
  • Determine if fluxes of carbon, water vapour and heat over the various ecosystems as derived from the various measurement techniques can be combined to form a comprehensive and consistent estimate of the regional fluxes and budgets across the landscape.
  • Provide long-term consistent observations of energy, carbon and water exchange between the atmosphere and the ‘top end’ grassland.
  • The Site Location

    The Sturt Plains flux station is located approximately 280km north of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. It was established in August 2008 and is managed by Monash University external and Charles Darwin University. The Sturt Plains OzFlux Site is located at: Latitude: -17.1507 S Longitude: 133.3502 E

    Site Characteristics

    The flux tower site is 280km north of Tennant Creek, amongst a low lying plain dominated by Mitchell Grass (gen. Astrebla). Elevation of the site is close to 250m and mean annual precipitation at a nearby Bureau of Meteorology site is 640mm.

    Maximum temperatures range from 28.4°C (in June/ July) to 39.1°C (in December), while minimum temperatures range from 11.2°C (in July) to 24.4°C (in December).

    The instrument mast is 5 meters tall. Heat, water vapour and carbon dioxide measurements are taken using the open-path eddy flux technique. Temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and net radiation are measured. Soil heat fluxes are measured and soil moisture content is gathered using time domain reflectometry.

    Ancillary measurements taken at the site include LAI, leaf-scale physiological properties (gas exchange, leaf isotope ratios, N and chlorophyll concentrations), vegetation optical properties and soil physical properties. Airborne based remote sensing (Lidar and hyperspectral measurements) was carried out across the transect in September 2008.

    Biomass Harvest - mean live biomass: 0.00 gm-2 (standard error: 0.00) , mean standing dead biomass: 163.42 gm-2 (standard error: 16.73), mean litter biomass: 148.99 gm-2 (standard error: 21.32), total mean biomass: 312.40 gm-2 (standard error: 30.80), Soil- Clay: 14.47% (volume <1µm), Silt: 51.23% (volume <1µm), Sand: 34.30% (volume <1µm), Sand (>1 µm): 1.02% (total weight)


    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)

    SturtPlains flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data SturtPlains  flux tower data

    SturtPlains  flux tower data






    Kipp & Zonen



    Data logger

    Campbell Scientific



    Open Path CO2 and H2O




    Net Radiometer

    Kipp & Zonen

    NR Lite


    Rain gauge

    Campbell Scientific



    Soil heat flux

    Campbell Scientific



    Soil moisture (two replicates)

    Campbell Scientific


    -0.05, -0.50m

    Sonic anemometer
    - wind velocities (u,v,w)
    - sonic temperature

    Campbell Scientific



    Temperature and Relative Humidity




    Net Longwave Radiation

    Kipp & Zonen



    SturtPlains 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).

    SturtPlains 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.

    SturtPlains modis