Landscape water use
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne aims to protect plants in the landscape while also reducing its water use. We must be able to provide plants with the right amount of water to maintain their health without wasting water.
The RBG gives research a high priority amongst its spread of water management strategies. One of its research aims is to quantify plant water use through the use of moisture sensors, a weather station and horticultural expertise.
On the left of the image is a graph of soil moisture traces at 10, 20, 30, 50 and 70 cm depths. On the right side is the measurement technology
Rates of plant water use are poorly understood in urban landscapes. This is an important issue for further research as Melbourne is facing water shortages from drought, climate change and an increasing population. RBG Melbourne is responsible for protecting the 10,000 different types of plants in the Gardens, many of which are rare, threatened or endangered in the wild, while continuing to find new ways to limit its water use.
It is vital that we learn to measure the right amount of water a plant needs under particular weather conditions, so that just enough water can be provided to maintain its health without wastage.
In May 2007, RBG Melbourne, Sentek Pty Ltd and the University of Melbourne began a joint research project to quantify plant water use through the use of EnviroSCAN® soil moisture sensing technology, an automatic weather station and horticultural expertise.
A total of 6 soil moisture sensor probes are located in selected sites around the Gardens. The information provided by these probes is transmitted to a website where the project partners can download the information in real-time.
RBG Melbourne is using this information to improve irrigation within the Gardens and sharing this knowledge with other urban landscape managers.
From December 2008 to May 2009 another 70 sampling sites were installed to both inform the water-repellent (hydrophobic) soil study and to compare water use across the Gardens.
RBG Melbourne is using the information obtained from soil moistures sensing to improve irrigation practices within the Gardens and also to share this knowledge with other urban landscape managers.
In November 2010, following the unfortunate attempt at ring-barking the Separation Tree (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), soil moisture sensing equipment was installed to monitor the tree’s long term health
- Soil Moisture and Irrigation Methods in a Complex Landscape Stage 1 Report (Word - 231 kb)
- Irrigation Australia 2008 National Conference Presentation: Developing water management strategy for complex landscapes
- Irrigation Australia 2008 National Conference Paper: Developing water management strategy for complex landscapes
- Irrigation Australia 2010 National Conference: Developments in soil moisture sensing for improved landscape water management
EnviroSCAN® soil moisture sensor probe
Installation of soil moisture sensing technology at the Separation Tree
Last updated 27 Apr 2011