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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.




Counting carbon from burning wastelands to healthy peat swamp forest

October 2019

Automated environmental monitoring sensors have just been installed in a patch of Indonesian wetland, the size of Melbourne, to quantify the stocks and flows of greenhouse gases—and ensure the success of restoration efforts.




Heat tips forest from CO2 sink to source

October 2019

New science using TERN finds Melaleuca forests—think tea trees and paperbarks—are more vulnerable to climate stresses than eucalypt forests. Storing >5% of Australia’s forest carbon, the findings have implications for carbon accounting and highlight the vulnerability of melaleucas to projected hotter and drier future climates.




Copernicus’ Tower

August 2019

How a research tower in the Snowy Mountains became crucial to the most ambitious Earth observation program to date. Another page is being written in Australia’s proud history in supporting some of the planet’s biggest space missions.




Treetop to bedrock: understanding resilience of Australia’s Critical Zone to human impact

July 2019

An interdisciplinary team is developing Australia’s first Critical Zone Observatory Strategy — the first step towards providing a robust, long-term framework for more effective and collaborative Critical Zone Science.




Finding the true holy grail of biological barometers

June 2019

New science conducted at 27 research sites around the world, including one of TERN’s, has challenged the long-held belief that leaf traits are the best way to predict how plants respond to environmental change. Join the researchers in their quest for the true holy grail of environmental predictors.




Australia’s Environment in 2018

May 2019

Researchers have taken advantage of TERN’s trusted national and long-term data to develop the latest in an annual series of environmental condition reports. The report, and its accompanying interactive website, provide an annual summary of 15 key environmental indicators and how they have changed over time.



Do trees sweat to beat the heat?

April 2019

As temperature records continued to tumble last summer, a timely experiment using TERN data has added to our understanding about how Australian woodlands cope with extreme heat.




Mitchell Grasslands ecosystem observatory takes grassroots sky-high

April 2019

From on-ground monitoring plots, to high-tech sensor-laden towers and satellite measurements, all scales of TERN’s ecosystem observatory are combining at our newest site in Queensland to deliver critical data for research, policy, management and industry-led extension.




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.


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