A SuperSite is an intensive ecosystem observatory set up to examine the status and processes of one of Australia’s many ecosystems. Each SuperSite comprises a main field site that takes vegetative, faunal and biophysical measurements and works over at least one gradient (topographical or ecological) transect in a typical and important biome in Australia.

The scale of the SuperSites (10–200 km) is larger than a plot but smaller than a Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) plot system.

SuperSites in the research framework

A SuperSite uses existing and recently deployed environmental monitoring installations to collect comprehensive sets of long-term ecosystem data of high temporal and spatial resolution.

Core research conducted at a SuperSite includes measurements from micrometeorological flux stations (OzFlux), plant physiological measurements, as well as long-term vegetation and fauna monitoring.

SuperSite data collection

SuperSite Data Sets

An indicative list of data sets required from SuperSites to support modelling, synthesis and applications:

Indicative list of dataset types

PhenoCams at the SuperSites

Phenology cameras (PhenoCams) collect digital repeat photographic images of vegetation from each of the SuperSites. A SuperSites digital image database is in development and work has started on PhenoCam network standards with other interested parties at a TERN ACEAS workshop in March 2014. There are currently a mix of RGB and spectral, stand-alone and Internet Protocol addressable cameras. PhenoCams are located on flux towers and on the ground to capture understorey images.

Within TERN, PhenoCam data is used by AusCover to validate satellite remote sensing products including:

  • scaling of stand-level heterogeneity of greenness to satellite view
  • validation of growing season metrics (Start/Peak/End/Length of Season)
  • study of fire dynamics
  • bare soil fraction.

The AusCover Phenology Validation protocol can be found here.

PhenoCam images also provide details on mechanisms of changes viewed by satellite:

  • relationship of tree and grass layer to satellite data
  • relationship to number, colour or age of leaves.

Collecting PhenoCam data from SuperSites allows monitoring of the direction and magnitude of changes to vegetation phenology due to climate change and extreme weather events. Monitoring growing season metrics including rate of green up and drying will allow us to determine relationships between phenology and ecosystem functions by comparison with TERN OzFlux eddy covariance data collected from the same sites.

As the PhenoCam network is further automated and standardised, the resulting data will contribute to improve ecosystem models being developed by the TERN e-MAST facility and others. These models, validated by field data, will improve our ability to predict the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on Australian ecosystems, allowing for informed development of management strategies and policy decisions.

PhenoCam images at the SuperSites also provide landscape context for field observations.

Understorey PhenoCams at Litchfield Savanna SuperSite with before and after fire photos from July 2013

PhenoCam images collected at the Great Western Woodlands shows the ability of the soil to take up about half the annual rainfall (130 mm) delivered in the one storm (January 21, 2014) at Credo. View here.

PhenoCam images from the Victorian Dry Eucalypt SuperSite for Wombat Forest (left) and Whroo (right) nodes

Live PhenoCam images from the Victorian Dry Eucalypt SuperSite are available for the Wombat Forest and Whroo sites.

PhenoCam images from the Cape Tribulation node of the FNQ Rainforest SuperSite

Live PhenoCam images from the Cape Tribulation node of the FNQ Rainforest SuperSite are available here.

PhenoCam images from the Calperum Mallee SuperSite just prior to and just after the fire, Jan 2014