Title

Digital change detection and separation of anthropogenic and natural impacts on ecohydrological conditions in the Pilbara region, WA

Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Engineering

First Advisor

Dr Mahdi Khiadani

Second Advisor

Dr Olga Barron

Third Advisor

Dr Irina Emelyanova

Fourth Advisor

Dr Alireza Mohyeddin

Abstract

A deficiency in crucial digital data, such as vegetation cover, in remote regions is a challenging issue for sustainable water management and planning, especially for areas undergoing rapid development, such as mining in the Pilbara, Western Australia. This is particularly relevant to Inflow and Groundwater Dependent Vegetation (IGDVs) (riparian vegetation and groundwater dependent vegetation) which provide important ecological services and, as such, require regional protection. However, such invaluable assets experience changes over time due to either human activities such as land development or natural phenomena such as climate change or fire events.

The main objectives of this research was to 1) advance an approach to delineate inflow dependent ecosystems at a local scale; 2) adopt it to map the assets at regional scale using remotely sensed data (Landsat 5 TM imagery due to its appropriate temporal and spatial resolution for historical studies, 1986-2011), ground-truth data and available information such as reports, digital layer and climate data; 3) develop a method for identification and quantitative assessment of IGDVs changes and attribution of the changes to particular impacts or stressors, and 4) apply the developed change detection method to investigate and evaluate impacts of an adopted water resource management options on inflow dependent assets in the Pilbara.

Outcomes of the research exposed that the proposed delineation method allowed production of accurate inflow dependent ecosystems maps for the Pilbara bioregion. The change detection method was also effective in detecting various spatial and temporal scales of changes and separating anthropogenic and natural impacts. It was further discovered that climate has had significant impacts on the assets of the area.

The finding and information produced from this research is capable to aid government, industry and communities to consider the environmental, social, cultural and economic aspects of the sustainable use, development and management of land and water resources in arid and semiarid Pilbara, WA and areas with similar ecohydrological conditions. Four papers were prepared from the research, two are published and two are under review.

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