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Observing terrestrial biodiversity from gene to ecosystem levels, monitoring patterns 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.


Dry, drier… Repeat environmental surveys deliver detailed drought data

October 2018

More than 100 TERN ecosystem monitoring plots have now been sampled multiple times. The open data from these plots allow researchers to better understand how plants are impacted by drought and are a powerful resource for understanding environmental change and climate adaptation.




Drought’s impact on the environment

October 2018

Researchers are using TERN infrastructure in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to take part in a landmark global experiment that investigates ecosystem response to drought. The experiment’s findings will help to predict and mitigate the impacts of drought in Australia and around the world.




It’s a long way to the top if you wanna survey Cape York

September 2018

TERN has added 24 more permanent plots to its national network of over 600 ecosystem surveillance sites.  The new sites just added in Far North Queensland mean that TERN now provides open-access to environmental data and samples from 85% of Australia’s major terrestrial vegetation groups and over 50% of the nation’s bioregions.




Tanami Indigenous biodiversity data released

July 2018

Data on the biodiversity of more than 10 million hectares of land in central Australia are now openly available via TERN. Collected by Indigenous rangers and traditional owners in collaboration with the mining industry, land council and environmental consultancy partners, the dataset is an invaluable resource for the conservation and sustainable use of one of Australia’s most remote and under-surveyed regions.


The impact of climate change on South Australia’s flora

July 2018

A new synthesis has identified the implications of climate change for South Australia’s plant species and the state’s biodiversity. What does a warmer future mean for SA’s plants, including its 418 endemic species? Can plants adapt to environmental change, or will they eventually be driven to local extinction? Read on to get the answers to these questions and more as the researchers discuss their findings.


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.


Australia’s new Threatened Species Index: the ASX of conservation

June 2018

Just as the ASX 200 tracks the trend of the financial world, Australia will soon have its own index for monitoring the trajectory of its threatened species. As the first of its type in the world, the index will provide reliable and robust measures of changes in biodiversity to support more coherent and transparent reporting and protection of threatened species.


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