The 2017 WA Drought

One site exactly 1 year apart (left: Sept 5, 2017, right: Sept 5, 2016).

One site exactly 1 year apart (left: Sept 5, 2017, right: Sept 5, 2016).

The 2017 drought in Western Australia was really hard on the agricultural community and also affected our work as well. We arrived at our research site in July to find that most of the plants had not even germinated and dry, bare red dirt was most prevalent. Where in June is often the wettest and most important month for precipitation in these systems, June 2017 had less than 0.6mm of rain where the long term average is around 37mm (BOM June Morawa weather).

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We had to shift many of our projects and add a watering treatment to some to assure that some plants emerged this year. After a month of watering, we did start to see some difference. And then some rain did start to fall in August and September (nearly 2 months late). 

July 22, 2017

July 22, 2017

August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017

The previous year might have biased my view of the reserve because the 2016 rain was above average and we were treated to beautiful fields of plants and wildflowers during the 2016 field season. It makes me wonder how much of a climate lag is stored within the system (e.g. does extra rain from the previous year help bummer or impede plant community recruitment/germination in the following year?). Potentially a new direction to look into with some future long term projects...