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Director's update


January 2018

Welcome to our first 2018 newsletter, which, in the tradition of its predecessors, brings fresh evidence that the study and management of ecosystems truly represents the most dynamic field of contemporary ecology. This observation is exemplified in 'New science on carbon and water of Australian landscapes', the story of a special edition publication dedicated to research outcomes from use of the national flux monitoring research infrastructure over many years. This publication demonstrates the breadth of links between ecosystem science and other disciplines. Among the latter are landscape ecology, global ecology, biogeochemistry, aquatic ecology, soil science, hydrology, ecological economics and conservation biology, all of which draw upon diverse approaches, including theory and modelling, long-term investigations, comparative research and large experiments.

The articles in the aforementioned publication span international, continental and local scales and while TERN often advocates the importance of working at the global scale to develop a holistic understanding of issues such as climate change, there are none-the-less other issues of supreme importance to Australians for which it is essential we take a parochial approach. One such issue is bushfires, which over millennia, have had an overwhelming influence on our ecosystems as well as the psyche of Australia’s inhabitants. 'Predicting bushfire danger from space' is a great example of taking into account Australia’s vegetation, particularly the unique properties of eucalypts and landscape to realistically model fuel moisture content and flammability in such a way that finite fire management resources are deployed realistically in time and space.

Data published by TERN have been used to great effect in the study of fire across Australia for quite some time, and especially for the fire impact regions in Northern Australia and Alpine areas of Victoria. And a return this week by the TERN ecosystem surveillance team to the Alpine plots established in 1947 continues the 70-year tradition of gathering soil and vegetation data from the Bogong High Plains and helps to answer questions about fire and land pressure, as detailed in 'Sustaining Australia’s critical alpine zone: new ecosystem surveillance plots supplement seven decades of monitoring'.

With its long-term data streams collected over time and space, TERN is acutely aware that there is potentially an enormous amount of research and knowledge available to ecosystem scientists, managers and policy makers but our communication is not always "fit for purpose". The Ecosystem Science Council ('Shaping our future') is a strong voice in our sector, calling for improved integration and delivery of data needed for effective environmental reporting and TERN is taking heed. During 2018, TERN is on a mission to improve the usability of its datasets. This will largely be achieved by centralising management of TERN’s databases to ensure there is a single site for access. Additionally, there will be more online help and tools available, not just for first-time users but also for experienced TERN-ites looking to streamline searches and carry out advanced data integration. We will post news of these improvements as they come on line during the year and we will certainly welcome your feedback and comments.

And on the topic of feedback, we are really grateful to everyone who has taken the time to complete our user feedback survey—the response rate has been remarkable, even with another couple of weeks to go until it closes on 15 February. If you don’t know about the survey, have now finished your holiday reading and are still looking for a diversion before the 2018 work year takes over, take a few minutes answering it on the TERN website. We timed the closure of the survey to fall after the AMOS-ICSHMO 2018—Joint 25th AMOS National Conference and 12th International Conference for Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography—in Sydney from 5 - 9 February 2018. If you are attending the conference, be sure to support the TERN-related session on land-atmosphere exchange of carbon, water and energy and that by TERN user Vanessa Haverd, who will host a session on carbon and the Paris climate agreement. In the meantime, we hope you take some time to enjoy your January newsletter.

Dr Beryl Morris



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