Where we work
TERN Ecosystem Surveillance currently has two main programs: AusPlots Rangelands, and AusPlots Forests.
This map shows the location of our plots.
AusPlots Rangelands' objective is to establish permanent plots throughout the rangeland bioregions and undertake baseline surveys of vegetation and soils at these plots. The Australian rangelands are a significant area (81%) of the continent, represented in 52 bioregions characterised by:
- vast spaces with highly weathered features
- old and generally infertile soils
- highly variable and often low rainfall
- diverse and variable plant and animal communities.
AusPlots Rangelands is implemented across all Australian rangelands jurisdictions (SA, NT, WA, NSW, Qld) in Australia. To date, environmental monitoring throughout the rangelands has been inconsistent. State agencies, universities and other research groups have undertaken many varied projects at different scales to address specific management or research needs. While this work has provided valuable biodiversity data in extensive areas, the geographic coverage is far from complete. TERN Ecosystem Surveillance is now working to identify, prioritise, and fill these data gaps in Australian rangelands environmental monitoring. This work will facilitate ongoing evidence-based decision making capacity at local, regional, national and international levels.
Where practical, AusPlots Rangelands data is collected in collaboration with State and Territory agencies. This fosters a more consistent national approach to monitoring the rangelands which will allow comparisons at a broader scale. To further support the implementation of a consistent approach to rangelands monitoring across Australia, AusPlots Rangelands have developed survey methods and sample collection protocols explicitly for the Australian rangelands. These survey protocols allows government agencies, researchers, and other groups to collect uniform data across Australia’s rangelands using consist methodology. Key to this methodology is a PDA/Smartphone application designed by AusPlots Rangelands specifically for this purpose. This system simplifies the field collection of data, data storage, tracking samples through their identification, vouchering and analyses along with sharing of data with the wider community. All survey and collection details obtained by AusPlots Rangelands will be discoverable and accessible through the TERN Eco-Informatics ÆKOS system.
AusPlots Forests aims to establish a continental-scale plot based monitoring network that improves our understanding of tree growth, forest productivity and carbon dynamics in tall eucalypt forests in relation to continental-scale environmental gradients. It builds upon existing plot networks where possible, and as it develops will provide infrastructure for regionally based forest research. AusPlots Forests will provide the first step toward robust monitoring of Australian forest ecosystems using standardised measurement protocols across Australia. The AusPlots Forests network (including a manual and site descriptions) is outlined in this reference paper (Wood et al. 2015).
The first roll-out of AusPlots Forests plots will be established within the tall eucalypt forests of Australia. These forests are distributed in a discontinuous arc of high rainfall from northern and southern Queensland to southern Tasmania, and in southwest Western Australia (see map below). The tall eucalypt forest ecosystem was chosen because it (a) spans a range of macroclimates across the continent; (b) is highly valued as water catchments, and for fauna and flora conservation, recreation and timber and fibre production; and (c) forms a large component of the existing Permanent Inventory Plot infrastructure maintained by forestry agencies.
To date, 48 1 ha high quality forest monitoring plots have been established across the tall eucalypt forests of Australia. These plots, and any additional plots established in the future, will form the infrastructure for repeat measurements (i.e. every 5-10 years over the next century) of key forest attributes enabling the robust tracking of growth and productivity trends in this important forest ecosystem. Chosen plot measurements will be primarily focused on metrics for tracking forest dynamics such as species turnover, canopy cover, basal area and height growth, recruitment and mortality of trees >10 cm in diameter.
AusPlots Forests will provide a ‘seed project’ that establishes the methods, infrastructure and facilities required for a more integrated and comprehensive long-term forest monitoring framework in the future. A core principle of AusPlots Forests is that all data collected will be freely accessible via the Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS, developed by the Eco-Informatics Facility) thus encouraging the use of these plots as infrastructure for future research initiatives. The data will tie in with world-class international forest monitoring systems (e.g. RAINFOR), current monitoring of Australian Rangelands and forest-based SuperSites, and builds on a recently collated dataset of 2750 permanent inventory plots established and measured by Australian forestry agencies for over 50 years.