When Australia’s national environmental monitoring agency, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), expanded their WA AusPlots network, Bush Heritage ecologists seized the opportunity to include Eurardy Reserve.
Eurardy, sitting on the edge of WA’s south-west biodiversity hotspot, is renowned for its floral diversity and spectacular wildflower displays. Due to its diversity and because the Geraldton sandplains IBRA region was not represented in the monitoring program, Eurardy was an ideal place to locate new sites.
This was an expansion of an existing relationship as Bush Heritage and TERN had already collaborated to install monitoring plots at our Ethabuka Reserve, Cravens Peak Reserve, and the Birriliburu indigenous protected area partnership.
AusPlots monitoring started in 2008 and since then has collected biodiversity data at over 580 plots across Australia. AusPlots is a national monitoring program, undertaking baseline assessments of ecosystems across the country. The aim of the program is to establish and maintain a national network of plots that enables consistent ecological assessment and ongoing monitoring.
AusPlots is only one of a suite of capabilities delivered through TERN, as part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). As a whole, TERN delivers the critical research infrastructure, national and international networks of scientists, environmental managers and stakeholders that's needed to improve understanding and management of Australia’s ecosystems.
AusPlot locations across Australia
In September 2016, three 1 ha plots were set up and permanently marked on Eurardy Reserve. One plot was located in each of the three key conservation targets at Eurardy; the York gum woodlands, the heathlands and Bungabandi creek system. These are the broad land systems that make up the reserve.
The AusPlots team collected a wide range of data on plant species diversity, soil properties, soil metagenomics, vegetation structure, cover and biomass. A total of 167 plant species were recorded on the three plots, including 4 species of conservation significance including one species, Enekbatus cristatus, which hadn’t been recorded on the reserve before.
All the data collected is now available free for download via TERN’s data portal AEKOS. The data can be used in a range of ways both on Eurady but also to allow comparisons across the continent. A range of researchers and land managers across Australia make use of the data and samples to:
- Assess vegetation change using the AusPlots methodology as both a baseline and a continued surveillance monitoring tool.
- Detect the impact of invasive species based on soil and vegetation data.
- Ground-truth satellite derived vegetation and soil data
- Conduct soil carbon analysis using the soil bulk density samples
- Mapping soil phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients using soil pit and subsite samples
- Assess fuel loading using the basal area and leaf area data.
- Use of the leaf tissue samples for genetic and isotopic analysis.
If you'd like to know more about TERN and AusPlots, visit www.tern.org.au.