The ASN is expanding

Staff taking part in an intensive field campaign at the new regional supersite: twelve people spent one week completing a full inventory of carbon stocks including canopy, trunks, litter and soils.

Effective ecosystem management requires the capacity to monitor, understand and give early warning of changes in the condition and functioning of ecosystems. TERN is strongly focused on enhancing our understanding of Australian ecosystems and providing the scientific underpinning for best management processes for these environments. The Australian Supersite Network (ASN) is a key component of this work, and has just welcomed the addition of some new non-TERN-funded supersites to the Network. The three new supersites are: the Litchfield Savanna Supersite, the Tumbarumba Wet Eucalypt Supersite and the Victorian Dry Eucalypt Forests Supersite. Each of these sites also hosts flux towers contributing to TERN’s OzFlux network.

The Victorian Dry Eucalypt Forests Supersite is actually a regional supersite hub consisting of several nodes. This new regional supersite’s vision is to provide the scientific infrastructure and institutional collaboration for world-class science and sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems in South Eastern Australia based on sound understanding of their structure, composition, functions and processes. 

There are two core nodes at Whroo in north-east Victoria (near Shepparton) and Wombat Forest (near Ballarat), and a series of 3-4 high quality satellite sites that will provide the basis for scaling measurements from point to landscape to catchment.  The new regional supersite builds on existing infrastructure, long term study sites, biodiversity and other monitoring sites. It includes investment in new observation platforms in key locations, extending across a range of land covers and uses.

The Supersite is working closely with other TERN facilities including AusCover for LiDAR and hyperspectral remote sensing, and the Ecosystem Modelling and Scaling Infrastructure Facility (eMAST) for integrated analysis and modelling of water and nutrient flows at catchment scales. Each of the core sites have vegetation monitoring plots, biodiversity surveys and flux towers, with live flux measurements also available for both Whroo and Wombat. This comprehensive cross-Facility approach will provide a basis for informing policy directions and management decisions.

The Wombat Flux site not only monitors ecosystem fluxes of energy, water and carbon dioxide above-ground, with a flux tower, but also below-ground. The below-ground measurements are obtained using an automated chamber system that is connected to a Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectrometer in a mobile laboratory on site. Experimental plots with rainfall reduction treatments will be used to study the effect of rainfall reduction and drought on the carbon and greenhouse gas cycles. These experimental approaches will allow a better understanding of the processes that control the carbon and greenhouse gas balance in the dry eucalypt forest systems in Australia. Thus, researchers will be able to make a thorough assessment of how changes in our climate will influence the carbon exchange processes in forests, and the vulnerabilities of these forests with regard to their carbon balance.  In the long run the Wombat Flux site will also enable study of the impact of forest disturbances on the carbon and greenhouse gas balance.

The Victorian Dry Eucalypt Forest Supersite is just another example of how TERN’s collaborative and multidisciplinary approach can contribute to addressing complex problems. The involvement of multiple TERN Facilities at this site ensures that resulting work will have meaningful impacts across a range of ecosystem science issues. In future issues of the TERN newsletter, we look forward to providing more information on the important work also underway at the Litchfield and Tumbarumba Supersites.

An OzFlux tower at the Victorian Dry Eucalypt Forest Supersite, just one component of the comprehensive approach implemented at this site.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter June 2012.

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