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Carbon and Water

Understanding the interacton between ecosystems and climate including the exchange of gases, & response to extreme events.

Ecosystem scientists have always been interested in understanding the carbon cycle – how and why carbon moves through the landscape, its sources and sinks. This includes carbon dioxide exchanges between the atmosphere and vegetation, soil, and aquatic systems, as well as uptake and loss of carbon through vegetation growth and loss. Recently there has been increasing general interest in how human activities may be affecting Australia’s natural carbon cycles.

TERN’s nationally networked infrastructure, multidisciplinary capabilities and end-user-focused products are delivering better ways of measuring and estimating Australia’s current and future environmental carbon stocks and flows. This helps increase certainty for our partners and stakeholders working to understand and manage carbon-related issues in state and federal government agencies, industry, NGOs and the ecosystem science community.

Water is always a topic of interest to Australians, living and working as we do on the driest inhabited continent on Earth. We are regularly faced with numerous challenges caused by having too little or too much water. So it’s not surprising that TERN infrastructure is being used by stakeholders all over the country to increase understanding of our water resources.  TERN is working to more effectively monitor and report on catchment management, investigate the functioning of nearly waterless ecosystems and groundwater systems, and generate comprehensive visualisations of destructive floods. Recently TERN’s reach has even extended to the frozen waters of Antarctica.

On this page you will find regularly updated links describing TERN’s multidisciplinary, networked approach to reducing uncertainty about Australia’s environmental carbon stocks and flows.  You will find links describing the efforts of TERN and our many partners to increase and share our understanding of Australia’s water resources and to plan for the sustainable management of these precious resources.




Learning from change

March 2019

The full extent of devastation following the recent bushfires in Tasmania is becoming clear. This is what our worried researchers found when it was finally safe enough to visit TERN’s highly instrumented, long-term ecological research site in the Huon Valley.




The world’s most valuable micro-meteorological data?

January 2019

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes has independently analysed Australia’s data on land-atmosphere exchanges of energy, carbon and water collected by TERN and its partners, and found them to be perhaps the world’s most valuable observations for building and evaluating the land models needed for projecting future droughts and heatwaves. Read the analysis and find out more about these profoundly important data for global climate modelling.



World's first global vegetation database

December 2018

An international research team has produced the world's first global vegetation database. Containing over 1.1 million complete lists of plant species for all terrestrial ecosystems, including over 90,000 Australian sites provided by TERN, the ‘sPlot’ database will assist in the development of climate change prediction tools and adaptation strategies.



Harvesting virtual forests

November 2018

Forests store more carbon than any other above-ground ecosystem on the planet. Just how much, though, is hard to know without cutting them down.  Enter ‘virtual harvesting’, a non-destructive remote sensing technique for accurately measuring biomass that has just been undertaken at TERN’s tropical forest observing sites.



‘Kyoto Statement’ on Asia-Pacific actions on SDGs

November 2018

163 representatives from across the Asia-Pacific region, including TERN Australia, have committed to an ambitious action statement on achieving the global targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework. The ‘Kyoto Statement 2018’ was formalised during October’s GEOSS Asia Pacific Symposium, a key forum for strengthening regional cooperation.



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.



Sensitive sensors survive savanna scorching

September 2018

When collecting data on fire it’s to be expected that things are going to get a bit hot sometimes. The annual clash between sensitive science infrastructure and seasonal bushfires unfolded yet again this year at TERN’s tropical savanna ecosystem observing site.  Read on to find out how the site burnt but added to TERN’s long-term dataset—essential for Top End fire understanding and management.


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