Astron has been monitoring groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) across several locations in the Pilbara for a number of years. One of these programs occurs adjacent to a large iron ore mine in the central Pilbara where monitoring and management of riparian vegetation is required for compliance with Ministerial Statement approval conditions. Astron has worked closely with the company to adapt and improve the program, increasing scientific rigour while simultaneously reducing the associated costs and Health and Safety risks.
The program monitors groundwater dependent tree species and the riparian vegetation community in response to groundwater drawdown and dewatering discharge. Monitoring data from potential impact sites is contrasted with reference sites; however, only one suitable reference site is accessible.
Astron transformed the program in 2012-13 by implementing two fundamental improvements: remote sensing was introduced as a powerful and efficient monitoring tool and a risk-based management framework was used to redesign the program.
High resolution satellite imagery (Worldview) now forms the backbone of the program, enabling the health of riparian vegetation to be monitored across the entire landscape, rather than just a limited number of individual sites. This landscape-scale capability has also overcome the issue of a lack of accessible reference sites. Through demonstrating the effectiveness of the remote sensing approach over a period of several years, on ground monitoring effort has since been scaled back and is now largely focused on verification of remote sensing data.
The management framework has also assisted in scaling back on-ground monitoring by tailoring effort to risk. More intensive measurements are now taken only at high risk sites (i.e. where groundwater drawdown is likely and highly groundwater dependent species are present) whereas monitoring at low risk sites is simple and rapid (visual assessment only).
With a team of dedicated ecophysiologists and remote sensing specialists, and many years of experience in the field, Astron has become the leading provider of GDE monitoring services in the State. We excel at best-practice high tech monitoring but also have the flexibility to deploy our expert team in simple observation-based assessments.