AusPlots is a plot-based surveillance monitoring program, undertaking baseline assessments of ecosystems across the country. The aim of AusPlots is to establish and maintain a national network of plots that enables consistent ecological assessment and ongoing monitoring. The AusPlots network collects a range of field data for integration with other existing data sources and current knowledge.
AusPlots is one of a suite of capabilities delivered through Australia’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), a part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). As a whole, TERN delivers the critical research infrastructure, national and international networks of scientists, environmental managers and stakeholders that is needed to improve understanding and management of Australia’s ecosystems.
The AusPlots story
At AusPlots, we’re passionate about developing a world-class ecosystem surveillance monitoring program for Australia.
Currently we have two main programs: AusPlots–Rangelands and AusPlots–Forests. Initially the Rangelands program was developed to provide information about some of the most widespread and yet under-studied environments in Australia. Analysis of gaps in long-term monitoring in Australia showed arid and semi-arid regions of Australia as under-sampled, particularly Acacia woodlands, Hummock grasslands and Chenopod shrublands. These regions all occur in the Australian Rangelands, and so AusPlots-Rangelands was born.
Whilst lack of information in the rangelands remains a problem, we're proud of the work we've done to date to remedy the situation by installing plot-based infrastructure that is free for all to use, with data readily accessible via the Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System and Soils to Satellites. Hundreds of sites have been established across the Australian rangelands (map), with robust vegetation and soils data and samples collected according to our established methods.
Based on this firm grounding, the Ausplots-Forests program was developed to deal with information gaps in tall eucalypt forests in the more mesic areas of Australia. Whilst these areas had more existing information available compared to rangelands areas, this information had been collected in different ways across the continent. In many locations data was collected by forestry agencies for production purposes, and so missed some important ecological information. The AusPlots-Forests program collects information in all areas where Tall Eucalypt forests occur in Australia, using a standardised method. As of January 2015 the program has established 48 x 1ha plots with the data made freely available to all.
We aspire to continue developing AusPlots into a comprehensive national ecosystem surveillance monitoring program. We are currently leading a national project ‘Enhancing long-term surveillance monitoring across Australia’, supported by the Department of the Environment through the National Environmental Research Program. Through this project we continue to address gaps in Australia’s current monitoring capability, focusing on three key areas:
- assessment of ecosystem condition for biodiversity,
- nationally-consistent fauna monitoring, and
- monitoring of woodlands ecosystems.
Looking ahead, we're investigating ongoing enhancements to our existing work and new opportunities to develop further. For example, development of an 'AusPlots-light' field method to help people undertake field surveys that are compatible with AusPlots, but less intensive than the full AusPlots survey approach and able to be implemented more frequently throughout time. We look forward to greater interaction and collaboration with both industry and NGOs, to enable access to land managed for conservation and to assist with method refinement and data management.
We're confident that our work will put future generations in a stronger position to make informed decisions about the use, management, and conservation of Australia's environments.