200 solar-powered network sensors to monitor rainforest

Nodes adaptively reduce workload to minimise power used

CSIRO's wireless sensor network nodes are solar-powered: image CSIRO

CSIRO's wireless sensor network nodes are solar-powered: image CSIRO

The CSIRO will install some 200 solar-powered, sensor network nodes over the next two years to helping rehabilitate rainforest in the Springbrook World Heritage precinct in south-east Queensland, the research group announced today.

The wireless sensors are being used to uncover the microclimatic conditions favourable for rapid natural regeneration of degraded rainforest environments.

They can measure biodiversity indicators, like bird and frog calls, and physical characteristics like leaf wetness, soil moisture and temperature.

CSIRO ICT Centre research scientist, Darren Moore, said the sensors are solar-powered and have been developed specifically for monitoring the complex, interlinked variables found in natural environments.

“In the rainforest, there is limited sunlight under the canopy which means we’ve had to develop sophisticated techniques to manage power,” Mr Moore said.

“Our nodes are able to stay on-line, adaptively reducing their workload, to minimise the amount of power used.”

Since May 2008 a network of 10 wireless sensor nodes has been sampling physical parameters, including soil moisture and the amount of available light inside the forest, every five minutes.

The project is a partnership between CSIRO, the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management and the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society.

CSIRO’s Sensor Network Technologies research director, Dr Michael Bruenig, said the Springbrook project demonstrates that real-time data can be streamed back from open and covered rainforest using a low-bandwidth, wireless sensor network.

“CSIRO’s FLECK devices are capable of low-powered, wireless mesh networking, intelligent energy management and interfacing to a broad range of sensors,” Bruenig said.

"They are providing the capability to provide reliable, long-term monitoring of the natural environment which – in the case of Springbrook - can be applied to rainforest ecosystems."

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