New monitoring technologies serving a better understanding of land and river degradation in urban areas

The world is increasingly urban. This project aims to explore human-river interactions in urban areas, with a focus on the major issues of soil erosion and sediment transfer in rivers. Human activity and land use change are the main drivers of soil erosion. Soil erosion on hillslopes and its transfer through river systems are major issues for society and ecosystems at local and global scales, affecting land productivity, nutrient and carbon cycling, water resource quality, quality of aquatic ecosystems, and infrastructure. To date, research on urban and peri-urban sediment cascades has been constrained by cost- and time-intensive monitoring methods, limiting our understanding of the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of erosion and sediment transport processes. A paradigm shift is needed to develop new systems capable of deployment at finer spatial resolution and time scales of measurement.

The project investigates relations between land use and soil erosion using innovative low-cost, open-source and Internet of Things technologies, particularly the dynamics of soil erosion on hillslopes and suspended sediment sources in peri-urban areas: what are the spatio-temporal dynamics of soil erosion in relation to land use; where is sediment supply coming from in the urban context; and how much is generated? Based on a comparative analysis of river catchments involved in long-term research observatories in Australia (Melbourne) and France (Lyon), this project will develop and implement low-cost sensor networks (e.g. water level, turbidity, and colour) in headwater streams to quantify dynamic sediment yields and fraction derived from each source.

The project represents an international collaboration on a global problem between the University of Melbourne, the University of Lyon, and the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group (WERG – – a world leading research group. The project will collaborate with another PhD project based primarily in France, investigating the problem of sediment transfer in peri-urban streams and its interaction with riverbed morphology.



The University of Melbourne: Prof Tim Fletcher and Dr Kathryn Russell.

CNRS: Prof Etienne Cossart, A/Prof Oldrich Navratil, and A/Prof Frédéric Cherqui.