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Land and Terrain

Tracking key processes such as fre, clearing, land use, & climate change. Monitoring soils & vegetaton to build a beter natonal picture of our major ecosystems.

Truly sustainable management and use of Australia’s unique ecosystems requires:

  • a comprehensive understanding of ecosystem composition and function, and how these are changing over time (eg in response to altered fire regimes, climate variability, species extinctions or invasions);
  • appropriately resourced long-term monitoring programs that report on meaningful indicators at relevant temporal and spatial scales to build a better national picture of our major ecosystems;
  • adaptive management processes that can evaluate and respond to changes reported by the monitoring programs; and
  • world leading predictive modelling capability that can integrate data from a range of disciplines and scales to evaluate management options and their impacts.

While these goals may have been occasionally achieved in the past at local and regional scales or for particular ecosystem types or landuses, TERN enables Australia to progress towards sustainability on a continental scale. Our nationally networked infrastructure and multidisciplinary approach is already enabling pastoralists, government agencies and the ecosystem science community to work across administrative boundaries and increase understanding, measure and monitor change, and more sustainably manage our ecosystem assets.

On this page you will find regularly updated links describing some of the ways in which TERN and its many partners are working to help improve the sustainability of management and use of Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems.

Land Sub-Themes:

Predicting bushfire danger from space

January 2018

As Australia swelters through another hot summer with several large fires affecting different parts of the country, a team of researchers is busily creating the first national-scale, live fuel moisture content and flammability monitoring system. The new satellite-based technology is a potential game changer through the delivery of more efficient and effective bushfire preparedness and management across Australia.


Drug discovery from TERN soil samples

November 2017

New research by New York’s Rockefeller University using TERN ecosystem samples and data is helping discover small molecules that are an important resource for new drug discovery, and the environmental conditions that favour their creation. The findings provide unprecedented insights into how best to conduct future surveys for natural product pharmaceutical discovery.


People using TERN: Jen Peters

November 2017

Hot, tired, thirsty, stressed? No so for Northern Australia’s unique savanna eucalypts which, according to new research using TERN’s Top End research infrastructure, stay cool and stress free even during the scorching dry season. But just how do they manage the stress and what will happen if dry seasons get longer, drier and hotter due to a changing climate? Read on to find out.


A universal model for predicting plant CO2 uptake

September 2017

New research using TERN delivered data is set to change the way we predict photosynthesis in plants. Just published in Nature Plants, the research proposes a unified model of CO2 uptake by species and ecosystems that can be used to predict future global terrestrial sinks for anthropogenic CO2.


Australia’s ecosystem sample library

September 2017

Australia’s national terrestrial ecosystems sample library has moved. Tens of thousands of soil and vegetation samples collected by TERN’s ecosystem surveillance monitoring are now housed at Waite and openly available for researchers to use. Find out what’s available and how you can use the library to advance your research.


Earth as an integrated system: don’t forget the groundwater 

August 2017

Water—or the lack of it!—is always a topic of interest to Australians, living and working as we do on the driest inhabited continent on Earth. TERN’s integrated ecosystem-observing infrastructure produces open data on multiple phenomena at the same time and location, ranging from biodiversity to hydrology. Here we bring you stories of the way some scientists are using TERN’s open access, co-located infrastructure to increase understanding of our groundwater resources and the terrestrial ecosystems that depend on them.


People using TERN: Andries Potgieter

July 2017

Dr Andries Potgieter of the University of Queensland is using TERN delivered remote sensing data to estimate grain cropping area and produce regular seasonal outlooks for sorghum and wheat. When faced with the high impact of climate variability, advanced knowledge of likely crop size and its geographical distribution help industry make strategic decisions and avoid market volatility within Australia and globally.


Australia’s first state-wide ecosystem map

June 2017

Assisted by TERN data infrastructure, the Queensland government has released Australia’s first comprehensive state-wide regional ecosystem maps, providing unparalleled detailed online information on the status of Queensland’s diverse native vegetation.


Decades of data sustaining the Australian Alps

June 2017

Seven decades of long-term monitoring data from the Alps, now openly available via TERN infrastructure, are not only increasing our understanding of impacts such as fire, grazing and exotic species invasions, but also informing land-management decisions by government agencies and private enterprise and helping document a small but important part of the Alps’ natural heritage.


Finding the lost forests of the drylands

May 2017

TERN’s infrastructure and expertise have proven vital to a new global analysis of the distribution of forests and woodlands across dryland ecosystems. The work, a direct result of our ongoing collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, has increased current estimates of global forest cover by nearly 10%. Just published in Science, these results will improve global carbon models and inventories.


Taking TERN soil tools to near neighbours and beyond

April 2017

TERN’s Soil and Landscape Grid of Australia continues to be used as regional role model and template in international cooperative soil information management. The Grid has recently been on show at the FAO in Rome and used in a suite of skill development and training projects with our near neighbours and beyond including Indonesia, Taiwan and Russia.


Making farms “more profitable in every sense”

April 2017

20 years of biodiversity and farm health research at TERN monitoring sites will help ANU researchers and farmers better integrate the environment and farming to deliver increased productivity, improved conservation outcomes and more resilient farming communities.


Taking the pulse of Australia’s environment

March 2017

Researchers have taken advantage of TERN’s trusted national and long-term data to develop the recently released ‘Australia’s Environment in 2016’. The report, and its accompanying interactive website, provide an annual summary of 13 key environmental indicators and how they have changed over time.


TERN teams up with Google to deliver Australian science to millions worldwide

February 2017

TERN has again teamed up with Google, this time to make detailed information on Australia’s soil and landscapes available through the Google Earth Engine. As a result researchers can benefit from Google’s cloud computing power, cutting their data processing and analysis times from hours to seconds.


People using TERN: Andrew Edwards

February 2017

A research fellow from the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research is using TERN delivered data to map fire severity across the Top End for more informed regional fire management and more accurate national carbon accounting.


New tools to improve state fire mapping

January 2017

The South Australian Government have partnered with TERN to develop new techniques that improve state fire mapping, and understanding of fire location, extent and timing. The new methods use TERN’s satellite data products, and align with those of neighbouring states, in a significant step towards nationally consistent fire mapping.


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