Wireless sensor networks offer several advantages in monitoring of dynamic environmental variables in remote landscapes and offer a promising approach to realize the full potential of environmental monitoring. Wireless sensors also offer the advantage of real time data collection and sensor/network management and reduced long-term costs. Better understanding of surface water budgets in remote landscapes warrants close monitoring of moisture and temperature variability in near surfaces soils. This work describes field data demonstrating the functionality of four different wireless networks, at two field sites, both part of the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (CZO). Equipment used varied from traditional point to point radio communication to a wireless mote based, distributed network. Sensors measuring water potential, volumetric water content, and soil temperature were deployed at a variety of sites including, a remote alpine meadow, along a topographic gradient with a dense tree canopy and within the root structure of an individual tree. The sensors were reactive to moisture and temperature variations and the wireless systems met the goal of providing informative data on dynamic responses of soil moisture to precipitation, snow melt and changes in vegetative demand. The systems were dependable, with low power consumption and were robust enough to withstand harsh winter conditions at a high elevation site. The study highlights measurement accuracy, power consumption, and data transmission limitations of the three systems. We demonstrate that deployment, implementation and long-term field monitoring in remote and challenging environments is possible with a variety of wireless systems.
Hartsough, P., Malazian, A., Tuli, A., Kamai, T., Kizito, F., Bales, R., Broad, A., Hopmans, J. (2008): Remote Environmental Monitoring of Hydrologic Biotic Interaction in a Mountain Environment. Fall meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2008. 89(53). Abstract H51H-0974. .