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Ian Riley

Ian RileyMr Ian Riley

Honours student

Topic: Temporal and spatial variation of organic carbon in small head water streams

University of Tasmania

Email: iriley@utas.edu.au


Although the amount of carbon contained in the world’s vegetation and soil stores is significant, the processes  and rates by which this carbon is mobilised and transported, particularly from land to water, still requires investigation. The loss of forest carbon through the hydrological cycle is an aspect rarely considered by above ground carbon assessment models and is an important link to the global carbon cycle.


The Warra Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Tasmania is an ideal location for forest carbon studies because of the history of research in this area and the presence of large areas of wet sclerophyll forest. In order to gain a greater understanding of the carbon cycle in Tasmanian forests, I am undertaking research in the area of carbon transport in water. This research, in collaboration with Forestry Tasmania, the University of Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, will lead to a greater understanding of the quantity of carbon which is transported from the forest in stream flow, and the factors which influence this.


The overall objective of the project is to investigate temporal and spatial variation of organic carbon in streams in the Warra LTER site.  In order to achieve this we will be investigating:

  • an appropriate method for measuring organic carbon in water
  • temporal variation in the concentration of organic carbon in response to streamflow and rainfall
  • how organic carbon concentration is correlated with other parameters (electrical conductivity, turbidity and flow)
  • spatial variation in organic carbon concentrations due to differences in catchment condition i.e. vegetation, soils, land use
  • if time (and correlations) permits, scale carbon loss to annual or seasonal estimates

After completing undergraduate degree in 2000, I worked as an environmental consultant for approximately six years and an environmental science teacher for three.  Both these professions have given me a keen interest in carbon and climate change and motivated me to return to university to learn more.


My supervisors are John Gibson (Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute), Sandra Roberts Forestry Tasmania and Mark Hovenden (School of Plant Science, University of Tasmania).