The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network comprises a number of capabilities committed to delivering critical research infrastructure and support for national and international networks of scientists, environmental managers and stakeholders. This infrastructure, including data, is needed to improve our understanding and management of Australia’s ecosystems. The TERN Australian SuperSite Network (TERN SuperSites) seeks to understand how key ecosystems will respond to future environmental change by setting up a nationally consistent network of multidisciplinary and intensive ecosystem observatories.
TERN SuperSites are Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites co-located with TERN OzFlux eddy covariance towers, which deliver biological and environmental observations of flora, fauna, microbial biodiversity, soils and hydrology. TERN OzFlux delivers micrometeorological observations of energy, carbon and water exchange between the atmosphere and key Australian ecosystems. Each TERN SuperSite is located in a significant Australian biome and the network spans a wide range of environmental conditions. The SuperSite network collects detailed data sets on flora, fauna and biophysical processes from each SuperSite.
History of the development of the TERN SuperSites
The SuperSite Network began operations in 2009, by augmenting existing hardware and field programs at two existing long-term ecological research stations, the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (JCU) and Samford Ecological Research Facility (QUT). In 2011 several additional SuperSites were also developed from existing field stations, while other SuperSites were developed from scratch at carefully chosen locations in biomes of significance. Each new SuperSite required significant co-contributions from the managing institution, state and territories and involvement of land management stakeholders. Each site was required to be situated in a different and significant Australian biome with suitable terrain to host an eddy co-variance tower to feed data into TERN OzFlux. In 2017 TERN restructured into TERN Landscapes, Surveillance and Ecosystem Processes Capabilities. TERN SuperSites formally aligned with TERN OzFlux to create TERN’s Ecosystems Processes Capability.
Growing the TERN SuperSites network
Development of the SuperSite Network has, by necessity, been collaborative and incremental in nature. The uncertainty of long-term funding has necessitated pre-existing and continuing co-investment by state governments and institutions. Future development of the SuperSites will focus on implementing a full suite of monitoring with improved quality assurance and quality control processes, while avoiding gaps in data streams.
Future expansion of the SuperSite Network will require careful consideration and gap analyses of existing monitoring programmes across Australian ecosystems and evidence-based prioritisation to highlight those likely to most benefit from systematic monitoring. New sites will need to be suitable and valuable for a range of TERN’s ecosystem monitoring including TERN’s OzFlux eddy-covariance and Landscapes (formerly TERN AusCover) remote sensing activities and will require long-term commitment and co-investment from managing institutions and stakeholders.
Affiliate SuperSites are those that are not TERN funded but continue to provide open, long-term monitoring data to TERN, following standardised protocols where possible. These include the Daintree Rainforest SuperSite - Cape Tribulation and Cow Bay nodes, Samford Peri-urban SuperSite and Whroo Dry Eucalypt SuperSite. SuperSites that are no longer collecting and sharing open data will be listed as inactive SuperSites.
Australian ecosystem monitoring sites that are willing to provide open data (historical and ongoing) and collect standardised datasets (where possible) may apply to join the network as Affiliate SuperSites.
Day to day running of the TERN SuperSites is managed by a SuperSite Central operation comprised of a Facility Director, Coordinator, Data Team and Finance. The Facility Director provides scientific and financial planning direction for the network, the Coordinator is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the network and looks after contracting, network protocols, outreach and initiation and development of external network relationships. Finance looks after financial reporting, invoicing and payments. The Data Team (data librarian, sensor support) ensures the field data streams are collected, described, archived and delivered in a manner that is robust.
Each SuperSite is led by a Principal Investigator and a deputy leader that also belong to the SuperSites Scientific Advisory Council (SSAC) that meets three to four times a year. All major network-wide decisions are derived through consultation with the SSAC.