CSIRO researchers use ‘flux tower’ to measure the exchange of water and carbon dioxide in native eucalypt forests

CSIRO researchers use ‘flux tower’ to measure the exchange of water and carbon dioxide in native eucalypt forests. These long-term measurements have revealed how drought affects the ability of these productive forests to sequester carbon dioxide.

Understanding the connections between land and atmosphere

CSIRO research is helping to explain and predict how interactions between the land and atmosphere influence climate, water resources, and environmental health and productivity.

  • 17 July 2006 | Updated 14 October 2011

Key issues

Australia's environmental and economic well-being depends on understanding the exchanges of gases, heat, water and small particles between the land and atmosphere.

Measuring and modelling the exchanges between the land surface and the adjacent few hundred metres of overlying air is vitally important because this is where people live.

Processes such as heating, evaporation and the way that air flows determine the:

  • climate that we live in
  • quality of the air that we breathe
  • productivity of our plants
  • amount of water that we use.

Therefore, understanding the exchanges between land and atmosphere has far-reaching implications — from greenhouse gas mitigation, to better land and water management in agriculture, and improved urban design for water and energy efficiencies.

CSIRO's research is used to predict the local and regional factors affecting climate, water resources, environmental health and productivity.

It will help answer questions such as:

  • How can we reduce carbon dioxide emissions by better harnessing and storing wind energy?
  • How can we better use our landscapes to store carbon?
  • How will climate change affect agricultural productivity and the ability of plants to capture carbon dioxide?
  • How will changes in vegetation cover affect water resources and local climates?

Our research

We are combining ground-based measurements with remote sensing and lidar (laser) data to better understand and predict changes at the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere.

Ground measurements of wind speed, net greenhouse gas emissions, water use and dust taken over days, seasons and years are vital for testing Earth System models that predict future scenarios for Australia.

CSIRO's Climate and Atmosphere research theme also plays an important role in the development of wind energy for Australia through wind-resource assessments, forecasting and energy storage technologies.

CSIRO's Climate and Atmosphere research theme is part of CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research. It contributes to the Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Climate Adaptation Flagship, Water for a Healthy Country Flagship and Energy Transformed Flagship.


Our achievements in this area include:

  • We are combining data measured from satellites with ground-based observations and land surface models to monitor our natural resources (carbon, water, nutrients) and how they vary in response to changing climate and land management.
  • CSIRO has developed new methods for analysing long-term Earth observation records from satellites to detect and source changes such as decreases in green vegetation cover over much of Australia.
  • CSIRO has pioneered wind energy prospecting and mapping in Australia.
  • The Australian Water Availability Project is helping target drought relief by Commonwealth agencies, through better observations of soil moisture and water availability.
Read more about CSIRO's work in Understanding our living atmosphere.