Property owners and farmers will be keenly interested in the results of modelling being conducted by Flinders researcher Professor Patrick Hesp and colleagues Dr Thomas Smyth and Dr Graziela da Silva, who are mapping dune formation behaviour along the length of the South Australian coast in order to model the likely outcomes of climate change.
“Farmers on marginal land in southern Australia are going to want to know in advance if they face two, 10 or 20 per cent of their land turning into sand dunes, or if present dune areas are going to start becoming mobile again,” Professor Hesp said.
“Likewise, the people who own beach houses all along the coast could be in for a surprise if the coastal vegetation starts to die off or reduce in cover, freeing up the sand to blow around their houses.
“It’s surprising how little is still known about the formation and behaviour of dunes, particularly the rates of vegetation colonisation, and changes due to climate change, but with climate scientists predicting declining rainfall over southern Australia in coming years, it is important to find out.”
Using coloured smoke bombs and strategically placed wind sensors, together with flying drones, sophisticated 3-D modelling software, and aerial photography, Professor Hesp and colleagues are modelling the factors that drive dune formation – and dune destruction – along SA’s coast.
The study has big implications for Australians, with a significant swathe of marginal farming land across the southern half of the country potentially under threat of devegetation and encroaching sand dunes.
Results from the research are expected to be finalised in 2016 and will shed new light on the extent of the threat that sand dunes pose to coastal environments and to the future of dryland farming in southern Australia.
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