In this issue

Issue 94

And now for the smog forecast
Provision of daily air quality forecasts for Australia's major urban centres is the ultimate aim of a joint project between the Environmental Protection Authority of Victoria, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO Atmospheric Research. The forecasting system will combine detabases of atmospheric emissions from the EPA, and weather forecasts from the Bureau, with a CSIRO model that simulates air quality.
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Pastoral patching
A ten year study of grazing impacts at the pastoral property Lake Mere in western New South Wales has found that arid and semi-arid landscapes behave in predictable ways to conserve scarce resources. A framework developed and tested during the study offers graziers a new way of judging how the land is responding to limited water and soil nutrients, and how it can be improved.
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Smart moves planned for clean commuters
The Intelligent Transport Systems Project plans to get city people out of polluting cars and onto public transport. The scheme will make available a range of new demand-responsive services with the entire public transport system designed as an integrated network of readily accessible links, 24 hours a day.
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A career in flames
A profile of Phil Cheney's career in bushfire research and fire management.
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Sharing the bounty
Australia has responsibility for one of the world's largest ocean territories. With the right to access this territory comes the obligation to conserve resources, combat pollution and advance exploration and marine research. Multiple use of the seas is a challenge that cannot be achieved without solid baseline information on the marine environment. Marine scientists are therefore mapping, exploring and monitoring Australia's ocean territories.
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Mapping the meadows
Seagrasses are flowering plants that originated on land and adapted to life underwater about 100 million years ago. They grow in 'meadows' found along the temperate Western Australian coast, in the gulfs of South Australia and Torres Strait, and in the waters off Queensland, north of Fraser Island. In some areas where seagrass decline has been dramatic, remedial steps are being taken.
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Going to extremes
Researchers studying the ocean between Australia and Antarctica seek to understand how interactions between the Southern Ocean, the sea ice, and the atmosphere influence regional and global climate. The researchers have three scientific goals: to measure how much water, heat and salt is being carried from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, south of Australia; to measure the rate at which water sinks from the sea surface; and to understand the role of ocean circulation in controlling the biological productivity of Southern Ocean surface waters.
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Reading the eddies
Oceanographers at CSIRO are developing a profile of the East Australian Current from the surface to the ocean floor, and across the continental shelf. The profile will underpin advice on the current's influence given to fishermen, ocean yacht racers, and marine rescue and environmental authorities. To the west and south of Australia flows the Leeuwin Current, which has direct links to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation.
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How we measure up
Shortly after the El Nino of 1982-83, CSIRO set up an ocean monitoring system to watch for changes in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the connecting Indonesian archipelago. Since then, regular and consistent ocean measurements, to a depth of 750 metres, have been collected together with data and satellite readings of sea level and surface temperatures.
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Modellers duel with hot equations
Researchers have developed a 'simple' climate model that includes the major physical processes - such as ocean currents and eddies - that affect the transport of heat to the ocean depths from the top 100 metres. They believe their model of ocean heat uptake, if linked to the simple climate model used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), would improve the accuracy of global warming and sea level predictions.
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Policing pollution
Researchers have been testing techniques developed for identifying the sources of faecal contamination at Rippleside Beach, Vic. In particular, the team is pioneering the application of inert chemical markers called faecal sterols to distinguish between human and animal waste. Oil fingerprinting is also being used to discover the sources, fates and effects of oil in Australia's marine environment.
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Value of Huon research crystal clear
Scientists are undertaking a three year study of the Huon Estuary, Tas, to develop a framework for managing the estuary and its catchment. The study will lead to well managed aquaculture and management of other activities with a bearing on the estuary.
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Making plants make more food
Plant geneticists at CSIRO have produced mutant Arabidopsis plants that take them closer to cloning the apomixis gene, the regulator of fixed hybridity. Control of this mechanism would make food crops easier to improve and maintain. In other research, sulphate and phosphate transporter genes have been cloned. This may lead to the short-circuiting of internal signals limiting nutrient uptake, enabling development of plants that are higher yielding, more nutritious and designed for specific uses.
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Will Antarctica melt into the sea?
Popular speculation about the effects of global warming on the Antarctic ice sheet has been fuelled by the break up over the past few decades of the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf. However, losses from the Antarctic ice sheet are unlikely to generate the 'metres per century' rates of sea level rise that occurred in association with the melting of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets.
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