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Australian Transect Network

Ecological observations providing a window into our environmental future

TERN’s network of large-scale transect infrastructure provides a powerful tool for addressing key ecological knowledge needs. The Australian Transect Network (ATN) facilitates the study of ecological structure and processes over major biophysical gradients, documenting ecological change and adaptation in relation to climate variation across Australia’s major terrestrial biomes.

The network is focussed primarily on field observations and monitoring of natural and semi-natural terrestrial ecosystems. It delivers publicly accessible data and products to enable researchers to predict how species and ecosystems will change in the future. Through ATN’s partners, research outcomes are linked to and inform natural resource management projects, policy settings, conservation and climate adaptation planning, and ecological monitoring programs.

Where are the Australian Transect Network transects?

The ATN maintains a national network of subcontinental transects which traverse major biomes, land tenures (including agricultural landscapes) and bioclimatic gradients:


Ecological observations

The ATN delivers composition, structure, function and landscape data to the research community at two scales:

  • Regional to national – transect envelope, plot stratification and observations are tailored to the target landscape for maximum relevance to regional planning, management and policy setting.
  • National to international – a layer of standardised observations of vegetation and soil attributes and samples, achieved through co-location with TERN AusPlots, enables consistent ecological assessment and ongoing monitoring within a transect science framework across the entire network.

The usefulness of transect science is maximised when the same measures are recorded on each transect within an integrated network. Importantly, this is occurring with the ATN, with consistent soil and vegetation data available for BATS, NATT, SWATT and TREND. Other common measures are being further developed, including ant communities (NATT, TREND, WTAT), plant traits (BATS, TREND) and soil microbial communities (BATS, NATT, SWATT, TREND).

The ATN’s coverage of a range of ecological attributes is tailored and responsive to the needs of the research community.  The above table features attribute coverage of the network’s core transects and will in the future include the network’s affiliate transects, including WTAT, BoxEW and EADrosT.


Summary of Australian Transect Network services

The ATN actively supports and facilitates:

  • Open access to transect data via the TERN AEKOS Data Portal – highly-quality, fully described data is freely available to the Australian and international research community
  • Access to an extensive network of transect plots for field research – get in touch with ATN if your research could benefit from the use of transect plots
  • Awareness of each transect’s core attributes, including how the research community can both inform and utilise transect data collections – see attributes table and transect links above
  • Access to plant vouchers, plant genetic samples, invertebrate genetic samples and soil samples for research use
  • Network membership for large-scale, established transect programs
  • Participation in annual workshops for transect leaders and other leading Australian and international transect scientists, as well as management and industry partners
  • Citizen science engagement through the TREND Mobile Device App
  • Scientific collaborations on articles and dataset publication
  • Access to the collective expertise of transect leaders


Key research areas

The ATN provides a connected, established framework and scientific resources to help researchers answer the following ecological questions of national significance:

  • How do species, communities and ecosystem processes change in space and time, and what are the key processes driving change?
  • What is the relative importance of climate as a driver of ecological change?
  • Is there predictable variation in ecosystem resilience across bioclimatic gradients, and can environmental thresholds be identified where there are abrupt changes in ecological composition, structure and function?
  • What is the potential of species and communities to adapt to a changing climate?

Supporting ecosystem research and management

ATN science outputs are being used by TERN’s end-user community to build ecological knowledge, support conservation planning and inform land management and climate adaptation decisions.  Take a look at our series of Information Sheets for examples of how exciting new transect science is supporting ecosystem research and management:

Adaptation in an arid eucalypt: Understanding genetic structure and climate adaptation can improve effectiveness of revegetation Assessing climate change vulnerability: Combining population genetics, species distribution modelling and field assessments to help predict a species response to climate change Savanna ant diversity and climate change: Understanding patterns of ant diversity can help predict biodiversity responses to climate change in northern Australia
Carbon dynamics and trees in northern Australia: Understanding savanna carbon dynamics in support of fire management for greenhouse gas abatement Climate change impacts on biodiversity: Identifying the sensitive zones Linking climate change, revegetation and leaf traits in Narrow-leaf Hop-bush
Livestock grazing and biodiversity conservation: Impacts on ant communities in Australia’s seasonal tropics Biodiversity of southern Western Australia’s sandplains: Implications of high species turnover for conservation planning  


ATN Resources


Alan Anderson's presentation on the Australian Transect Network at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation 51st meeting in July 2014. Click here to access via TERN's SlideShare page.

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