Informatics and GIS Program
University of California
Informatics and GIS Program


Program Overview

California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Division currently operates nine Research and Extension Centers (REC), which cover the state’s diverse climates and some of the richest growth of crops, forests and pastures in the world.  Climate models project that these types of temperate Mediterranean environments will likely be among those that will see the greatest impacts of global climate change.  These changes will have dramatic impacts on agricultural production, water harvesting, and natural resource management.

Models alone are inadequate to base decisions as to which crops are likely to do well or poorly, whether range and forest production is likely to increase or decrease, where rain/snow patterns might shift, or where biodiversity shifts are likely to occur. In an effort to measure and monitor environmental change, and integrate between agricultural and managed natural ecosystems at a regional scale we have initiated a network of sensors to acquire important data to study ecological change over time called ANR Flux. 

ANR Flux is a network of instruments that measure surface fluxes of carbon, water and energy and are currently located and operational at seven of ANR’s nine RECs (including both crop agriculture and rangelands).  The data from each sensor system are critical for understanding physiological and phenological dynamics of vegetation and soils – key drivers of agricultural productivity and water use tradeoffs.  These data are increasingly used to parameterize crop growth and ecohydrological models and evaluate scenarios of future climate, management, and crop selection to maximize crop resource use efficiencies.  Together this network of sensor systems allows evaluation of coupled plant growth and water use dynamics for a key crop across critical climate gradients or the evaluation of alternative crops within a single climate.  As a network, the system can help evaluate future trends in agriculture production in the context of warmer and more drought prone conditions.

Projects already underway involve research partnerships with faculty from UCR and UCB and from Desert REC. Examples include:

1. Coordination of surface fluxes measurements with NASA flyovers that support a HyspIRI instrument for refining methods to measure surface temperature and evapotranspiration from satellites;

2. Comparisons between flood and sub-drip irrigation in alfalfa fields at Desert REC;

3. A comparison between alfalfa fluxes at Desert REC (Imperial Valley) with fluxes in an alfalfa field in the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta; and,

4. A network-wide study comparing soil CO2 concentrations across a climatic/ latitudinal gradient.

Framework Design

ANR Flux equipment includes: radiation sensors measure incoming and outgoing long wave, shortwave, and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR); soil sensors that measure soil temperature, soil heat flux, soil moisture, and soil CO­2 concentration; and air temperature and relative humidity sensors.  Cameras, also part of the sensor configuration, track plant phenology and management activities, and with further processing can be converted into spectral indices that overlap with satellite products.

Appropriate placement of this equipment is critical to optimize quality data collection. The framework design includes a configuration the tower systems around a series of ecosystem “pairings”.  This approach will compare the same commodity at different climates, such as alfalfa at Desert and Intermountain RECs, and different commodities within a single climate, such as alfalfa and irrigated grassland at Desert REC.  Evaluating current data streams and future planned deployments for meeting these science goals is also critical need.

Active Locations

  • Intermountain – grass – currently in grassy area; however, upon evaluation of data quality may be moved to an alfalfa site (to pair with DREC Alfalfa) in 2016.
  • West Side – grass – stable location in grassy area (to be paired with DREC grass location – formerly urban tower).
  • Desert – alfalfa – stable location in alfalfa (to be paired with Intermountain).
  • Lindcove – orchard – To be move above tree line and paired with commodity at UCR in 2016.
  • Sierra Foothill – pasture – stable location in irrigated pasture (paired with Hopland).
  • Hopland – pasture – stable location in irrigated pasture (paired with Sierra Foothill).
  • Hansen – only CO2 sensors are currently active (to be dismantled and relocated to DREC grass location in 2016)

Inactive Locations – Short Term

  • Desert - grass – recently dismantled to evaluate repositioning the tower to pair with Westside grass area in 2016
  • Kearney – current location not ideal (dismantle and store equipment). (Revisit after data analysis late 2016)
  • South Coast – current location not ideal (dismantle and store equipment).

Data Management

The ANR Communication Services and Information Technology program has created a Tower Management System (TMS) for tower monitoring, data collection, data storage and data accessibility. The TMS is available at and requires login with ANR credentials.  Data will be processed and will flow into the TMS.


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