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Bridging a continental data divide

Members of TERN’s Australian Supersite Network (ASN) are reaching across the Pacific to build cross-continental monitoring protocols with representatives of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in the USA. The two networks will hold a series of teleconferences, with the first scheduled for early November, to compare notes and begin aligning their monitoring protocols. Their aim is to enhance interoperability and data comparability between sites in the USA and Australia.

ASN and NEON both use instruments and field sampling techniques to monitor ecosystem responses to environmental change. They both aim to collect intensive, long-term, detailed datasets on flora, fauna and biophysical processes in significant biomes. NEON is funded by the US National Science Foundation to build 60 sites across the US to support data collection for 30 years. Site construction has commenced and the infrastructure is expected to be fully operational by 2017. The ASN has already established 10 Supersites, which are distributed across a wide range of major Australian biomes. TERN and NEON each aim to combine site-based data with remote sensing data products to allow a range of calibration and modelling activities that will inform management at a range of scales.

The research sites on both continents share a similar design, with an instrument-laden tower at each site to record biophysical fluxes, including carbon, water and energy. Soil, water and terrestrial biological samples are taken in a number of locations at each Supersite and NEON site that represent local ecosystem types, and ecological or biophysical gradients.

The Director of the ASN, Dr Mike Liddell, said the best way of making sure the data collected on both continents was able to be compared was to align their monitoring protocols for field work, adopt comparable quality control and quality assurance programs, and use similar data standards. These would greatly enhance the value of analyses.

The initial discussions with senior NEON scientists will focus on vegetation and soil monitoring protocols, with future sessions to cover faunal monitoring, water monitoring, database management, remote sensing, and quality control and assurance. The first formal meeting will also involve representatives from a range of other TERN facilities.

For more information on the ASN-NEON collaboration, please contact the Coordinator of ASN, Dr Mirko Karan.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter October 2012.

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