Research finds trees can be at risk if mining alters groundwater levels—8 September

ARC-funded research from Western Sydney University has found open-cut mines that modify groundwater levels can impact ecosystems outside official boundaries, raising questions about their full ecological effects. The study was awarded a Linkage Project grant supporting collaborations alongside The University of Sydney and Rio Tinto Iron Ore. Mining below groundwater tables is increasing globally, but little is known about what happens to nearby trees and ecosystems when groundwater is diverted around mines to prevent the flooding of pits. "We know Australian trees, such as eucalypts, can extend roots 30 metres or deeper into the ground to find water," said Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. "What we examined in this study is how these trees respond when nearby mine operations start changing underground water supplies."

Media issued by Western Sydney University.

Image: Ephemeral creek at the beginning of the dry season—surface water still visible, groundwater very close to the surface
Image courtesy: Sebastian Pfautsch


Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, September 8, 2015