An emerging geoscientific issue is coal seam gas (CSG) and the implications the development of these resources has on groundwater. In November 2011, the Prime Minister recognised the importance of transparent, objective scientific evidence informing the assessment and regulatory decision-making process in relation to CSG and coal mining. This announcement culminated from considerable community concern over the potential impacts of CSG and coal mining on other water users and the environment. Additionally, while the development of shale gas in Australia is still largely in its infancy, this industry may also become another significant geoscientific and environmental issue as is presently observed in the United States.  

Development of both CSG and shale gas impact on water resources. CSG requires groundwater extraction to lower pressures within the coal seam in order to induce gas flow. The key water issues associated with this process are recycling or disposal of produced water and impacts from removal of groundwater. Shale gas requires large water volumes for hydraulic fracturing (fraccing) in order to increase permeability and induce gas flow. The key water issues associated with this process are again recycling or disposal of produced water (but at a much smaller volume) and impacts from sourcing water for fraccing. These are also a number of associated environmental impacts associated with CSG and shale gas development. 

This research project will focus on impacts to terrestrial vegetation.  While CSG and shale gas may pose a threat to these communities, there are other factors that might influence past, present and future condition such as groundwater use by other industries, fire, climate change or invasive species. It is therefore important to understand the present trend of vegetation condition and associated drivers. Only then are we able to assess the likely impact of CSG and shale gas on these communities. Changes in biophysical parameters will be investigated through a modelling approach that combines field-based ecophysiological observations and complimentary time-series remote sensing products.

Funding: Geoscience Australia Study Assistance Scholarship
Advisors: Prof Stuart Phinn, Adjunct Professor Damian Barrett, Dr Anthony O'GradyDr Luigi Renzullo

Project members

Laura Gowv

Laura Gow

PhD Graduate 2017