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Energy constraints in a wireless sensor network are crucial issues critically affecting the network lifetime and connectivity. To realize true energy saving in a wireless environment, the time varying property of the wireless channel should also be taken into account. Unfortunately, this factor has long been ignored in most existing state-of-the-art energy saving protocols. Neglecting the effects of varying channel quality can lead to an unnecessary waste of precious battery resources, and, in turn, can result in the rapid depletion of sensor energy and partitioning of the network. In this paper, we propose a channel adaptive energy management protocol, called CAEM, that can exploit this time varying nature of the wireless link. Specifically, CAEM leverages on the synergistically cross-layer interaction between physical and MAC layers. Thus, each sensor node can intelligently access the wireless medium according to the current wireless link quality and the predicted traffic load, to realize an efficient utilization of the energy. Extensive simulation results indicate that CAEM can achieve as much as 40% reduction in energy dissipation compared with traditional protocols without channel adaptation.