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New sites fill spatial and climatic environmental monitoring gap

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.

Just a few months after expanding Australia’s alpine region research infrastructure, TERN was hard at work again in May, adding 27 new ecosystem surveillance sites in New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia (SA). Established in eight bioregions including Broken Hill Complex, Cobar Peneplain and Channel Country, the new vegetation and soil monitoring sites bring the total number of TERN Ecosystem Surveillance sites scattered throughout Australia to 625.

TERN volunteers Nikki and Romy laying out the measurement tapes that ensure the accuracy of the data recorded


TERN's Ecosystem Surveillance team at Bush Heritage Australia's Boolcoomatta Reserve 


Our Ecosystem Surveillance team descending the summit of NSW's Mount Kaputar after sampling its snow gum woodlands

Data to understand unique climatic region and enable habitat comparisons

The 11 permanent TERN sites established in the South Western Slopes, New England Tableland, Nandewar and Brigalow Belt South bioregions of NSW provide data and samples from a unique climatic region where arid and temperate species overlap. This is the first time nationally-consistent methods have been used to conduct environmental monitoring in this cross-over region.

Chosen in consultation with leading ecologists and state and federal agencies, the new TERN survey locations fill known information gaps for certain climatic regions and strengthen the spatial representativeness of TERN’s land ecosystem observatory.

The data collected at the new sites will allow scientists to better understand such transitional zones and enable comparisons between populations of the same species growing in completely different climatic regions, thousands of kilometres apart.

For example, how do the snow gum ecosystems just sampled on Mount Kaputar differ from those sampled on the Bogong High Plains in January, and does this influence their resilience and adaptation to a changing climate?


Data for state government and not-for-profit conservation programs

Bush Heritage Australia's Boolcoomatta Reserve Manager Kurt Tschirner (left) and TERN’s Senior Botanist and Field Survey Lead Emrys Leitch (right) conducting vegetation and soil surveys at the new Boolcoomatta TERN ecosystem surveillance site

Collaboration is integral to TERN and the latest field campaign wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our partners and volunteers. Cooperation with a host of government and not-for-profit partners has not only facilitated the creation of this new research infrastructure but also ensures that the data collected have immediate research and management applications.

In the Mulga Lands and Broken Hill bioregions, eight new sites have been established on the Bush Heritage Australia properties of Narree (NSW) and Boolcoomatta (SA).  “The data and samples collected by TERN will support conservation activities at the properties, such as the sustainable management of the very rare and threatened purple wattle (Acacia carneorum) found at Boolcoomatta,” says Bush Heritage Australia ecologist Graeme Finlayson.

Further northeast in the New England region of NSW, TERN worked with Australian Wildlife Conservancy ecologists, including Jeanette Kemp, to co-locate four sites with existing research infrastructure.  “Co-locating research sites enables us to use TERN data and samples to inform the outcomes of our Pilliga mammal reintroduction project, which forms part of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program,” says Jeanette.

The latest TERN field campaign also provided direct support to another NSW Government program led by the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney called Restore and Renew.  TERN will contribute almost 500 leaf samples collected across western NSW to the project, which is creating a user-friendly online system for land managers with genetic, environmental and ecological information to enable evolutionary-informed ecological restoration.


By collecting data useful to a wide range of stakeholders, TERN is providing a valuable service in bringing data from the bush to researchers and managers.

We continue to deliver useful data from bioregions for which there is currently very little data. This month the team is off to Cape York to work with the Queensland Government’s Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing in establishing more permanent ecosystem surveillance sites. Keep an eye out for more news on this exciting new research infrastructure expansion.

TERN's Luke Ragless enjoying his soil sampling work in remote NSW


TERN's Field Survey App, called AuScribe, helps ecologists by automating data entry in the field, which saves time and money and increases accuracy

TERN's Ecosystem Surveillance field team pose for a sunset shot





Published in TERN newsletter June 2018

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