National ecosystem surveillance monitoring



Defining the current condition of any environment in Australia has long been a difficult process. An enduring challenge is that there are many varying concepts of condition with no widespread consensus across the many researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers who work to understand and manage Australian environments. As a result, Australia lacks a robust national capacity for assessing and monitoring environmental condition.

A new TERN project 'Enhancing long-term surveillance monitoring across Australia' aims to address this challenge, and to enhance the breadth and depth of Australia's terrestrial ecosystem condition monitoring and reporting at national and regional scales. The project is supported by the Department of the Environment as an Emerging Priority project in the National Environmental Research Program, and includes a suite of activities to build Australia's surveillance monitoring capacity around a small set of terrestrial biodiversity indicators.

The objective of this project is to provide a series of tested protocols, manuals and tablet app-based modules that can be applied to expand our capacity to understand and monitor changes to biodiversity across Australia. It provides the first steps to achieving a nationally consistent baseline for environmental reporting against which management can be measured. Importantly, the project will actively involve expert stakeholders from across the country, to inform a truly national approach to measuring biodiversity in Australia that is not limited by state and territory boundaries.

Ultimately, the project will enable the Department of the Environment and other stakeholders to better define condition, and monitor and understand changes in the condition of vegetation, fauna populations and ecosystems across Australia. In addition, a number of national products will be produced that allow for consistent measurement of key attributes of biota.


Project updates

  • The first workshop (11-13 June 2014) drew together expert stakeholders from Commonwealth and State/Territory agencies, Universities, and private industry to consider a definition of condition to guide the remainder of the project's activities. This group also compiled an initial list of environmental indicators that could be used to measure condition. Minutes of the first workshop are available here.
  • The second workshop (18 - 20 August 2014) drew together another broad group of expert stakeholders from across the country, representing a mix of organisations, to further consider the indicators that could be used to measure condition; and to delve more deeply into the methods of how to measure these indicators at a range of temporal and spatial scales. The workshop participants identified and assessed 31 condition attributes. These attributes have since been refined down to a list of 20. Key information about these attributes will be available soon. Minutes of the second workshop are available here.
  • A poster presented at the Ecological Society of Australia 2014 annual conference is available for download here.



A/Prof Nikki Thurgate

Principal Investigator and TERN Collaborations and Partnerships Manager

P: (08) 8313 1259



Ben Sparrow

Co-Principal Investigator and AusPlots Director

P: (08) 8313 1201


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TERN is supported by the Australian Government through the National
Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy(NCRIS).