Using Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors for Environmental Monitoring
How are CSX using IoT Monitoring?
CSX are excited to be using Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors for Environmental Monitoring, maintaining our position at the leading edge of Nature Based solutions monitoring. Our current development work includes using IoT sensors such as gas flux analysers and soil moisture sensors for environmental monitoring. Our IoT sensors measure environmental variables across different land types including peatland, pasture and arable fields.
Monitoring Gas Fluxes
At CSX, we use a LICOR-7810 Gas Analyser alongside a LICOR Smart Chamber to measure CO2 and CH4 fluxes from soils. The measurement process begins with inserting gas collars into the ground, and creating a closed system inside these with the smart chamber. As a result, any changes in gas concentration must be due to biological processes such as plant photosynthesis and respiration. The measurement data from these tests help us to understand the processes that are affecting the uptake and sequestration of carbon across different types of land, the vegetation and management practices.
We have seen evidence of factors including vegetation type, grass cover and shading affecting our results. These factors affect the rate of respiration and photosynthesis and therefore the emittance and sequestration of CO2.
Typically, we have seen soils with low moisture emitting higher concentrations of CO2. This has also been seen in areas where the vegetation is long which could indicate high rates of plant respiration releasing CO2. As our smart chamber is opaque, we are not necessarily measuring the drawdown of CO2 from photosynthesis due to the lack of light, and this is an aspect that may require further investigation techniques.
Across peatlands, we have seen trends in the CO2 fluxes and evidence of low emissions in comparison to those from other types of land management. We have also seen evidence of higher CO2 emittance from degraded peatland than on areas of restored peatland where the sphagnum moss is beginning to revegetate. Peatlands are important for carbon storage and the restoration of these environments so they can hold CO2 is essential.
CSX’s gas analyser and smart chamber measuring fluxes on restored peatland.
Another IoT sensor we are using at CSX are TOMST dataloggers, which measure the temperature of the air, soil and surface and soil moisture.
The data gathered from the moisture sensors can be related to water table depth measurements from dipwells deployed on peatland. These measurements provide us with further indication on the condition of the peatland, and whether it is likely to be emitting or sequestering carbon. Monitoring the change in these factors over time will help us assess the condition of peatlands for land managers.
These sensors can also be deployed to monitor wetland sites. Wetlands need to retain their water table depth at or below the surface all year round as a requirement of the Biodiversity Net Gain metric.
CSX’s gas analyser and smart chamber measuring fluxes alongside a TOMST moisture sensor on pasture.
Whilst it is early days in the use of IoT sensors for environmental monitoring, we are very excited by the possibilities for gathering new forms of measurement data in a much quicker and more reliable process than traditional methods. These data sources will add further richness to the measurement and audit processes we have created and deploy at CSX, and we look forward to sharing further updates on IoT sensors as their capabilities expand.