National ecosystem surveillance

TERN’s infrastructure, collaborative networks, and expertise are being put to good use in a new project that will tackle one of the big issues in Australian ecosystem research and management: national ecosystem surveillance monitoring.

Defining and measuring the condition of any Australian environment has long been a difficult process, with many varying concepts of condition and methods of measurement used across the country. As a result Australia lacks a robust national capacity for consistently assessing and monitoring ecosystem condition, and yet this capacity is a critical need for effective management of our ecosystems.

The Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (NERP) has funded TERN to start tackling this challenge, recognising that our extensive national network of infrastructure, expertise, and collaboration is a game-changer that presents a unique new opportunity to address this issue.

This new project Enhancing long-term surveillance monitoring across Australia aims to enhance the breadth and depth of Australia’s terrestrial ecosystem condition monitoring and reporting at national and regional scales. The project is supported as an Emerging Priority project under the NERP, and includes a suite of activities to build Australia’s surveillance monitoring capacity around a small set of terrestrial biodiversity indicators.

The Department of the Environment’s Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN), which provides for improved policy and decision-making through spatial information and applied science input, has been closely involved in setting up the project.

Mike Maslen, Acting Assistant Secretary of ERIN, says ‘This project has already made significant progress in helping to understand how we can improve the consistency and quality of continental environmental monitoring, and I expect this will have widespread benefits including in improving national State of Environment reporting.

‘Since its formation, TERN has improved the way that ecosystem scientists, managers and policy makers can collaborate, and has opened up new possibilities through its infrastructure and strong networks. We’re pleased to partner with TERN to deliver this important project.’

Importantly, the project is actively involving expert stakeholders from across the country, to inform a truly national approach to measuring ecosystem health in Australia that is not limited by state and territory boundaries. The first workshops for this project have already included representatives from across state and territory agencies, Australian Government agencies, universities, industry, and the CSIRO.

Ultimately, the project will help enable anyone across the country to better define condition, and monitor and understand changes in the condition of vegetation, fauna populations and ecosystems across Australia. And that is precisely what future generations of Australians will need to make informed decisions about the use and management of their landscapes1.

As a key first step in the project, contributors from across Australia have been workshopping a definition of condition for biodiversity. Some of the key themes from their brainstorming are shown in this wordcloud.

For more information on the project: Visit the webpage, or contact A/Prof Nikki Thurgate Ph: (08) 8313 1259 

1Foundations for the future: a long-term plan for Australian ecosystem science, p10

Published in TERN newsletter August 2014

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