Australia’s Land Ecosystem Observatory

We measure key terrestrial ecosystem attributes over time from continental scale to field sites at hundreds of representative locations and openly provide model-ready data that enable researchers to detect and interpret changes in ecosystems.

TERN delivers quality data, tools and expertise to researchers who are working to understand Australia’s environment and so enable its management for sustainable social and economic benefit.


TERN Landscapes

Based on remote sensing techniques, TERN provides spatial data products at regional and continental scales of land, terrain and soil attributes to characterise and monitor Australian ecosystems over time.

TERN Ecosystem

TERN’s plot-based field monitoring capability tracks the direction and magnitude of change in Australia’s environments over time through sampling and surveying flora, soil and some invertebrates.


TERN Ecosystem

TERN’s ecosystem reference sites, located in key Australian biomes, combine time series data streams from micro-meteorological instruments with observations on flora and fauna to provide insights into ecosystem processes.

TERN's Principles

  • TERN supports research leadership in terrestrial environmental monitoring and modelling for long-term national benefit.
  • TERN’s fundamental purpose is to provide infrastructure for the use of researchers, but it does not fund research projects.
  • TERN provides foundational data and information products useful to researchers.
  • TERN’s activities will support researchers’ priorities for fundamental ecosystem science and thereby the priorities of its funders.

Ecosystem monitoring is designed to:

  • measure parameters operating at vastly differing scales of space and time;
  • enable concurrent assessment at multiple scales; and
  • support upscaling and downscaling for modelling and prediction


  • TERN’s work is directed towards the long-term task of monitoring, evaluating, modelling and predicting the status and trajectory of Australia’s ecosystems.
  • TERN’s data and information products will integrate with monitoring conducted by related agencies.

TERN’s data and information products must be useful to and efficiently available for land management and policy-maker stakeholders, through whom learnings from research might achieve impact.

TERN will increase awareness of its facilities and data for the purposes of:

  • ensuring optimal utilisation of its research infrastructure for world-class research by national and international collaborators; and
  • engaging with end-users of research such as industry, business and government in support of informed decisions.

Science Questions

TERN’s  field observatory and data collection are shaped by the science questions pursued by Australian environmental science researchers.

  • How are our ecosystems responding to environmental pressures?
  • How might positive trends be enhanced and negative consequences managed?
  • How is our environment likely to alter in the future, for example in relation to a different rate of change in climate?
  • How are significant environmental assets – soils, carbon stocks, water, vegetation and biodiversity – responding to such changes and to their management?
  • How resilient are the ecosystem services upon which our society and many of our industries depend, such as soil health, nutrient cycling, fire mitigation, provision of clean water, crop pollination, carbon sequestration and the effect on disease transmission?