Australia’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network

A Network of Networks Approach to Building and Maintaining Continental Ecosystem Research Infrastructures

Authored by: Abad Chabbi , Henry W. Loescher , Nicole Thurgate , Andrew J. Lowe , Timothy F. Clancy

Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Infrastructures

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781498751315
eBook ISBN: 9781315368252
Adobe ISBN:


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The challenges of the Anthropocene require large-scale infrastructure investments to underpin long time scales, multiple spatial scales, and transdisciplinary ecology and ecosystem science. In Australia, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) was established as a first step to address this need for the terrestrial domain. The approach taken was one that built on existing networks and capabilities and strategically invested in supporting enhanced integration of facilities utilizing a range of methods (including remote sensing, ecological plots, and biogeochemical flux analysis). Some early successes of the approach included TERN being a catalyst for improved data storage and access, linking of science to policymakers through dedicated synthesis products, and increasing access to global science initiatives such as Fluxnet. However, the approach was not without significant shortcomings, most notably the level of investment relative to the aspirations of the networks, the short-term funding cycles and overall uncertainty, the lack of explicit treatment of operational costs in addition to the build investment, and the resistance of sectors of the ecosystem science community to more collaborative, open, and integrative approaches. Key learnings from the project have driven a need for a greater focus on a common set of long-term objectives and a narrower scope at the expense of maintaining all activities that individual components have been undertaking, as well as an explicit focus on data services and data usability. In the future, it is hoped TERN will be able to operate an integrated set of core capabilities that are well linked with global initiatives to drive high-level science outcomes to improve the health and sustainability of use of our natural and managed ecosystems.

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