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Land and Terrain

Tracking key processes such as fre, clearing, land use, & climate change. Monitoring soils & vegetaton to build a beter natonal picture of our major ecosystems.

Truly sustainable management and use of Australia’s unique ecosystems requires:

  • a comprehensive understanding of ecosystem composition and function, and how these are changing over time (eg in response to altered fire regimes, climate variability, species extinctions or invasions);
  • appropriately resourced long-term monitoring programs that report on meaningful indicators at relevant temporal and spatial scales to build a better national picture of our major ecosystems;
  • adaptive management processes that can evaluate and respond to changes reported by the monitoring programs; and
  • world leading predictive modelling capability that can integrate data from a range of disciplines and scales to evaluate management options and their impacts.

While these goals may have been occasionally achieved in the past at local and regional scales or for particular ecosystem types or landuses, TERN enables Australia to progress towards sustainability on a continental scale. Our nationally networked infrastructure and multidisciplinary approach is already enabling pastoralists, government agencies and the ecosystem science community to work across administrative boundaries and increase understanding, measure and monitor change, and more sustainably manage our ecosystem assets.

On this page you will find regularly updated links describing some of the ways in which TERN and its many partners are working to help improve the sustainability of management and use of Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems.

Land Sub-Themes:

A national mangrove observing system

June 2018

In a giant leap towards the creation of Australia’s first nationwide mangrove observing system, TERN has provided open access to decades of historical and newly acquired field and Earth observation data. These data alert scientists and managers to environmental change, allow them to understand the causes and impacts of this change to sustainably manage our valuable mangrove ecosystems, and enhance Australia’s contribution to the global Sustainable Development Goals.


New sites fill spatial and climatic environmental monitoring gap

June 2018

TERN has added another 27 permanent plots to its national network of over 600 ecosystem surveillance sites. The new sites in New South Wales and South Australia represent the first nationally-consistent monitoring in an important climatic region and provide vital information to state government and not-for-profit conservation programs.


New science shows ‘a little dirt never hurt’

May 2018

It’s something that parents all over the world have suspected forever, but now the benefits of playing in the dirt have been backed by science. In fact, new research using TERN data and tools indicates that exposure to the right kind of soil actually benefits human health at the population level and reduces our collective risk of sickness.


People using TERN: Ashlea Doolette

May 2018

Every year our farmers apply many tonnes of expensive fertiliser because Australia’s soils are naturally deficient in phosphorus. To help reduce this reliance on fertiliser, Dr Ashlea Doolette from the University of Adelaide is using TERN to learn from our ‘phosphorus-efficient’ native plants and develop novel approaches that could save our agricultural industries millions of dollars every year.


Australia’s newest globally consistent ecosystem map

March 2018

Ecosystem maps allow managers to craft strategies that ensure that our unique ecosystems and their services are not lost. Unfortunately, however, there is no consistent way of mapping ecosystems across nations and jurisdictions. Thankfully, this is set to change courtesy of TERN and the University of Adelaide who have remapped the characteristics of Australia's ecosystems using nationally and globally consistent methods.

Forecasting nature just as we forecast the weather?

March 2018

Just like the weather forecasts we all take for granted, can we create a reliable a ‘nature forecast’ to help us better understand, manage and conserve ecosystems? Get ready for ecological forecasting! The shift from conception to actively building collaborations that span international boundaries, ecological scale and observation systems has begun. Read on to hear how the world’s environmental observatories are integrating for ecological forecasting.


Australians unlock their gates to ecosystem surveys

March 2018

With almost 600 ecosystem observing sites nation-wide it's inevitable that some TERN infrastructure is hosted on private or community property. To thank Australia's participating landholders for unlocking their gates, TERN has delivered summary reports for over 150 private and pastoral properties, conservation reserves, and NRM regions. The reports provide key data for each property or region and represent an invaluable resource to private landholders and land management authorities alike.


Watching over our incredible eucalypt ecosystems

March 2018

Join us as we celebrate National Eucalypt Day with a special video showcasing how the TERN observatory is measuring the nation’s precious eucalypt ecosystems to allow scientists to detect their responses to environmental change and understand what this means for the future. Watch the short video and find out more about how we’re watching over our incredible and valuable eucalypt ecosystems.


People using TERN: Rachael Nolan

February 2018

New research on two of Australia’s most iconic and widespread trees—the river red gum and mulga—is helping solve the puzzle of how they’re able to coexist in some of the nation’s hottest and driest environments. The results have major implications for how we manage our arid ecosystems and their groundwater resources and also for helping balance Australia’s carbon budget.


Spotting the signals of climate adaptation

February 2018

Why are some plants able to grow across multiple ecosystems and others not? Does this flexibility make them more adaptable to climate change?  Meet the team of scientists who are investigating these questions and providing vital insights into predicting plants’ responses to climate change and how to revegetate degraded landscapes more successfully.


Predicting bushfire danger from space

January 2018

As Australia swelters through another hot summer with several large fires affecting different parts of the country, a team of researchers is busily creating the first national-scale, live fuel moisture content and flammability monitoring system. The new satellite-based technology is a potential game changer through the delivery of more efficient and effective bushfire preparedness and management across Australia.


Drug discovery from TERN soil samples

November 2017

New research by New York’s Rockefeller University using TERN ecosystem samples and data is helping discover small molecules that are an important resource for new drug discovery, and the environmental conditions that favour their creation. The findings provide unprecedented insights into how best to conduct future surveys for natural product pharmaceutical discovery.


People using TERN: Jen Peters

November 2017

Hot, tired, thirsty, stressed? No so for Northern Australia’s unique savanna eucalypts which, according to new research using TERN’s Top End research infrastructure, stay cool and stress free even during the scorching dry season. But just how do they manage the stress and what will happen if dry seasons get longer, drier and hotter due to a changing climate? Read on to find out.


A universal model for predicting plant CO2 uptake

September 2017

New research using TERN delivered data is set to change the way we predict photosynthesis in plants. Just published in Nature Plants, the research proposes a unified model of CO2 uptake by species and ecosystems that can be used to predict future global terrestrial sinks for anthropogenic CO2.


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