Working together to improve land-management outcomes

A number of TERN environment monitoring facilities are building research partnerships with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), a research body of the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry. This is contributing to enhanced capabilities for the sustainable management of Australian landscapes, through the project ‘Ground Cover Monitoring for Australia’.

ABARES is working with CSIRO, state agencies, and TERN’s AusCover and AusPlots Rangelands facilities to provide regular updates of the area or ‘fractional cover’ of live and photosynthetically active (green) vegetation, dry or dead vegetation, and bare ground across the Australian continent.

This groundcover mapping provides vital information to help assess soil condition and land-management targets. It is produced using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery analysed by CSIRO and validated with field site information collected by project partners. AusCover plays a major role in this project, contributing remote-sensing data from MODIS and maintaining information and outputs from the project including mapping and field-site information.

Project partners have also worked closely with AusPlots Rangelands on the development of their nationally accepted field methodology and central attributes for site data collection. This means that the project partners’ own site information can be used with the AusPlots Rangelands site data to help validate the mapping. The AusPlots Rangelands team has also produced a specialised version of their field app, tailored to the needs of the ‘Ground Cover Monitoring for Australia’ field program. While the current collaboration is focussed on groundcover monitoring in the rangelands, there are hopes to expand the work to address other land-management issues in the future.

With these advances in data collection, the project is also taking advantage of other TERN capabilities. For example, ABARES and AusCover will share the fractional groundcover plot data with TERN’s Eco-Informatics facility for integration into the Australian Ecological Knowledge and Observation System (ÆKOS), for use by all researchers addressing land-use management challenges. ABARES is also working closely with AusCover to coordinate the online delivery of fractional cover data that are freely available through AusCover’s data portal.

Dr Rob Lesslie, the Principal Scientist at the ABARES Land Use and Management Unit, sees significant advantages in working with TERN. While ABARES plays a key role in collating and coordinating land-use and management information from across Australia through its partnership network, its systems are not designed to maintain and manage the large quantities of data this sometimes involves. TERN’s data-management infrastructure offers opportunities for ABARES to store, manage and disseminate data. Thanks to this, ABARES and its partners are now better able to share, extract and analyse data, and ultimately, help manage Australia’s lands more sustainably.

TERN’s network of expertise across Australia also provides benefits. ABARES already has strong connections with CSIRO and state agencies, but tapping into TERN’s network enables them to establish new and stronger connections with a range of researchers involved in relevant work. As Rob says, ‘Land-use and management information and expertise is widely distributed in Australia – there is no single location with all the answers. Networks like ABARES’s and TERN’s are vital for bringing the national picture together.’

TERN Director Professor Tim Clancy said TERN and ABARES would continue to seek opportunities for engagement and collaboration. ‘Into the future, we will increasingly need to consider the human dimension of ecosystems. ABARES and TERN’s complementary capabilities and strong working relationship position us well to address these issues together,’ Tim says.

The ‘Ground Cover Monitoring for Australia’ project is financially supported by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

ABARES is working with CSIRO, state agencies, AusCover and
AusPlots Rangelands to provide regular updates of the area of
vegetation and bare ground across the Australian continent.

Published in TERN e-Newsletter August 2012

Share Article