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The MSPN is enhancing Australia’s capacity to understand and manage our natural environments by establishing consistent, coordinated approaches to ecosystem monitoring. The rate, magnitude and direction of ecosystem change can now be described – and understood – more comprehensively than ever before.

TERN is working to transform the Australian ecosystem science community from one in which effort was frequently fragmented, inefficient and short-term, to one that is national, networked, and delivering for Australia’s future. The change in the air was palpable at a recent meeting of TERN’s Multi-Scale Plot Network in the Barossa Valley near Adelaide.

The Multi-Scale Plot Network

The Multi-Scale Plot Network (MSPN) described the rate, magnitude and direction of change in Australian ecosystems more comprehensively than ever before. The MSPN also facilitated collaboration across the ecosystem science community, creating a network of ecosystem researchers that worked openly and collaboratively rather than in isolation on individual programs.
Based at the University of Adelaide, MSPN was the largest TERN Facility and was comprised of five sub-facilities:

While collecting complementary data, each MSPN sub-facility addressed a different aspect of ecosystem research and collected data at different spatial, temporal and information scales. The synthesis and integration of these data across the MSPN as a whole allowed us to address novel ecosystem questions, and meet policy and management needs.

The MSPN’s ‘hard’ infrastructure consists of plot networks, incorporating existing research sites and newly established sites. It’s ‘soft’ infrastructure includes the development of Citizen Science apps and standard methodologies for wide implementation. A key component of MSPN’s work included facilitating the free and open access of data through the TERN ÆKOS system and the ASN data portal. This facilitation of data sharing represents a fundamental shift in the way ecosystem science has been conducted to date, and is consistent with the whole-of-TERN approach to data sharing and collaboration.

For particular ecosystems or communities MPSN addressed the following research needs:

  • Assessing current patterns in distribution and abundance of species
  • Identifying the direction, rate and magnitude of change, and the key processes that drive change
  • Identifying the most effective methods to measure and monitor change
  • Investigating how ecosystems or communities may respond to current and future threats, and how these threats can be modulated through alternative management strategies
  • Investigating the capacity of Australian biota to adapt to environmental change through a combination of evolution, plasticity and movement

Components of the Multi-Scale Plot Network


The subfacilities within the Multi-Scale Plot Network contributed information at differing resolutions and spatial scales. When combined with data from other TERN facilities such as AusCover, OzFlux and Eco-Informatics, this allowed for the most comprehensive analyses of Australian ecology to take place.



Dr Nikki Thurgate

MSPN Director
Update - September 2013 - Life after the MSPN

The five sub-facilities that previously made up the MSPN have now evolved to become four stand-alone TERN facilities (see below).  TERN will continue to collaborate and synthesise the information produced by these facilities aiming to address the same research needs as outlined above.


MSPN related TERN facilities:

AusPlots (Forests and Rangelands) - Ben Sparrow

Australian Supersite Network - Mirko Karan

Australian Transect Network - Stefan Caddy-Retalic

LTERN - Emma Burns

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