Hart, Jane K and Martinez, Kirk
Environmental Sensor Networks:A revolution in the earth system science?
Earth-Science Reviews, 78, .
Environmental Sensor Networks (ESNs) facilitate the study of fundamental processes and the development of hazard response systems. They have evolved from passive logging systems that require manual downloading, into ‘intelligent’ sensor networks that comprise a network of automatic sensor nodes and communications systems which actively communicate their data to a Sensor Network Server (SNS) where these data can be integrated with other environmental datasets. The sensor nodes can be fixed or mobile and range in scale appropriate to the environment being sensed. ESNs range in scale and function and we have reviewed over 50 representative examples. Large Scale Single Function Networks tend to use large single purpose nodes to cover a wide geographical area. Localised Multifunction Sensor Networks typically monitor a small area in more detail, often with wireless adhoc systems. Biosensor Networks use emerging biotechnologies to monitor environmental processes as well as developing proxies for immediate use. In the future, sensor networks will integrate these three elements (Heterogeneous Sensor Networks). The communications system and data storage and integration (cyberinfrastructure) aspects of ESNs are discussed, along with current challenges which need to be addressed. We argue that Environmental Sensor Networks will become a standard research tool for future Earth System and Environmental Science. Not only do they provide a ‘virtual’ connection with the environment, they allow new field and conceptual approaches to the study of environmental processes to be developed. We suggest that although technological advances have facilitated these changes, it is vital that Earth Systems and Environmental Scientists utilise them.
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