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Observing terrestrial biodiversity from gene to ecosystem levels, monitoring paterns of change & examining the drivers behind change.

It’s no secret that Australia is in the grip of a biodiversity crisis. What is less well understood are the consequences of cumulative species extinctions for ecosystem function, and how this might affect the ability of these ecosystems to continue to deliver the goods and services – such as clean air and clean water – that we tend to take for granted.

The national scope of TERN’s activities, our networks of scientists and managers, and our focus on sharing and synthesising data means that we are now in a position to enable the development of a continental-scale understanding of what is happening to Australia’s biodiversity. Incorporation of data and knowledge from existing long-term monitoring sites, plots and transects into the network, and establishment of new ones where needed, means that ecosystem scientists and managers can describe changes in both biodiversity and ecosystem function over time, in response to drivers such as fire or climate variability. Corresponding field experiments testing how further changes (such as species loss or invasion, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations or alterations in fire frequency) might affect Australian ecosystem function in future are already underway.

On this page you will find regularly updated links describing the efforts of TERN and our many partners to increase and share our understanding of the connections between biodiversity and ecosystem function in Australia.

Biodiversity Sub-Themes, Resources and Projects:


Sustaining Australia’s critical alpine zone: new ecosystem surveillance plots supplement seven decades of monitoring

January 2018

Camped on the top of the Australian Alps a team of ecologists is beating the heat and sampling Australia’s critical yet fragile alpine ecosystems. The soil and vegetation data they collect will supplement a 70-year-long dataset and provide ecologists and land managers with the information they need to ensure the sustainability of our unique alpine environment and the ecosystem services it provides.


When weeds are good

December 2017

New science has shown that there can be a positive relationship between weeds and native plant biodiversity in grassland ecosystems, debunking some long-held assumptions that underpin common weed management practices. We hear from the paradigm-busting scientists who are changing the way we consider the threats of weeds to biodiversity.


Working with the community to collect data on raptors 

November 2017

A unique citizen science project utilising the data infrastructure of multiple NCRIS facilities, including TERN and the Atlas of Living Australia, is collecting and collating information on three iconic Australian raptor species to ensure their longevity. So, grab your camera and contribute to managing, understanding and protecting these spectacular birds of prey.


Students provide comprehensive record of the reef

October 2017

A new data repository has been launched that provides open access to in-depth environmental data collected as a result of education activities conducted on the Great Barrier Reef. Together with our partners we’re compiling a comprehensive record of the reef that researchers and regulatory agencies can use to monitor changes, and that anyone can use to learn more about this wonder of the natural world.


Visualising a century of platypus sightings

October 2017

Users and uses of TERN data are proving to be as diverse as the data themselves. Join us as we showcase one TERN user’s engaging visual data story of 100 years of platypus sightings using Tasmanian State Government data openly available via TERN.


Just part of the picture: camera traps reveal biodiversity at high-tech ecosystem observatories

September 2017

TERN is revolutionising the way environmental change is monitored by creating an autonomous, wireless sensor network throughout Australia at its ecosystem observing sites. Remote camera traps, operating alongside time-lapse vegetation cameras, acoustic monitors and climate sensors, are helping researchers build complete pictures of biodiversity and providing early detection of environmental change. Join us as we share with you some of these remotely captured images.


Australia’s ecosystem sample library

September 2017

Australia’s national terrestrial ecosystems sample library has moved. Tens of thousands of soil and vegetation samples collected by TERN’s ecosystem surveillance monitoring are now housed at Waite and openly available for researchers to use. Find out what’s available and how you can use the library to advance your research.


Big data used to assess fire ecology of Kakadu

August 2017

New research using decades of monitoring data available through TERN has identified significant problems with historic fire management in one of Australia's premier National Parks: Kakadu. Despite the data painting a somewhat negative picture of the past, the research proposes economically viable carbon-market based solutions and vindicates recent park management actions that are delivering more sustainable and ecologically appropriate fire management in the reserve.

Australia’s first state-wide ecosystem map

June 2017

Assisted by TERN data infrastructure, the Queensland government has released Australia’s first comprehensive state-wide regional ecosystem maps, providing unparalleled detailed online information on the status of Queensland’s diverse native vegetation.


Listen up: new technologies for sound biodiversity monitoring

May 2017

TERN is investing in a brave new world of biodiversity monitoring with remote sensors and artificial intelligence. Acoustic sensors at our nation-wide environmental observatories provide the infrastructure and data required by our stakeholders to monitor biodiversity at large spatial and temporal scales. Come hear their stories and the sounds they’re using to understand and conserve our ecosystems.


Finding the lost forests of the drylands

May 2017

TERN’s infrastructure and expertise have proven vital to a new global analysis of the distribution of forests and woodlands across dryland ecosystems. The work, a direct result of our ongoing collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, has increased current estimates of global forest cover by nearly 10%. Just published in Science, these results will improve global carbon models and inventories.


Making farms “more profitable in every sense”

April 2017

20 years of biodiversity and farm health research at TERN monitoring sites will help ANU researchers and farmers better integrate the environment and farming to deliver increased productivity, improved conservation outcomes and more resilient farming communities.


Conserving blink-and-you’ll-miss-it biodiversity

March 2017

Using TERN’s continental-scale environmental monitoring, researchers have discovered high variability in biodiversity across Western Australia’s sandplain ecosystems—a finding with important implications for conservation and management decisions.


550 ecosystem surveillance plots and counting

March 2017

2017 sees TERN reach a milestone of 582 ecosystem surveillance plots sampled across our rangelands and tall forest ecosystems. Vegetation, soil and landscape data from over 500 plots are now openly accessible via TERN’s open access data infrastructure and represent an invaluable resource for ecosystem science in Australia.


Sweet as Raspberry Pi: TERN’s new sensor technology for easier and cheaper ecosystem surveillance

March 2017

Perched 30m above the rainforest, Australia’s latest piece of high-tech environmental surveillance kit keeps watch. This new, TERN-developed vegetation-monitoring camera is tipped to revolutionise Australian ecosystem science, making the measurement of change and carbon in our environment easier and cheaper than ever before.


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