Lead researcher: Dr Baden Myers

Our project objectives aim to explore forestry related aspects of water management in the South East of South Australia. Investigations include:

-          Plantation water use estimation

-          Management of wetlands

-          The impact of plantations on groundwater

Plantation water use estimation involves two components of research - the collection of plantation water use data using field plots and the development of a remote sensing tool to estimate plantation water use at the regional scale. At present, the project has four field data collection sites operating to determine plantation water use characteristics – this includes two Pinus radiata sites and two Eucalyptus Globulus sites. The project has also developed a plantation water use estimation tool using blended satellite remote sensing data. This tool can be used to estimate evapotranspiration for a given area of plantation for a given time period (e.g. months, seasons, years). The tool is still under development and we will soon commence calibration using the field plot data.

Field Testing
Photograph of equipment set up to monitor evapotranspiration of individual trees at a Eucalyptus globulus plantation water use monitoring site. Yellow arrows indicate the position of sap flow sensor equipment. Image credit: Jeff Lawson


Data Map
Estimated (uncalibrated) 2019 water use totals for radiata pine plantations near Mount Gambier, as cumulative 2019 volumetric
evapotranspiration (megalitres ML) for each 25x25m pixel. 


Data Map 2

Estimated 2019 extraction, as cumulative 2019 ET minus rainfall. (Image credit: Eriita Jones)


The impact of plantations on groundwater in the South East of South Australia is being investigated with a strong focus on identifying the characteristics of recharge in areas occupied by plantations. Rainfall recharge is a significant component of the water budget in the region and a major component of groundwater impact assessment. This task commenced in late 2020, but some smaller activities have already been copelted including the documentation of a consistent method to provide a depth to groundwater layer, the development of a current depth to groundwater layer and investigation into the specific yield of the management areas in the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan.

Observed standing water level (SWL) at monitoring bore SHT012 in the Short management area, indicating a decline in groundwater levels
(higher SWL values) and evidence of recovery in recent years (data and background image courtesy of DEW/Waterconnect, 2020)


A third sub project is considering the management of wetlands in plantation forests. The aim is to ensure buffer policies are well founded to protect environmental assets whilst maximising the productive capacity of the plantation. To date, effort has been on review of buffers including collation of requirements in Australian states and where available in published literature and the results of this have been fed back to the project partners. Consultation with plantation forest managers has developed an understanding of how wetlands are currently managed, including condition assessment and management actions which have been applied. 

Our team:  Baden Myers, Jeff Lawson, Jim O'Hehir, Stefan Peters, Guna Hewa Alankarage, Chris Chow, Mizanur Rahman, Eriita Jones, Richard Benyon (University of Melbourne), Okke Batelaan (Flinders University), Daniel Partington (Flinders University).


Contact information

Dr Jim O’Hehir
General Manager: Forest Research Mount Gambier
Ph: +61 8 830 28997
E: Jim.O'Hehir@unisa.edu.au

Michele Cranage
Administrative Officer
Ph: +61 8 830 28902
E: Michele.Cranage@unisa.edu.au