The Alice Mulga SuperSite is located on Pine Hill Cattle Station approximately 200 km north of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. It lies in the expansive arid and semi-arid portion of mainland Australia that receives less than 500 mm of annual rainfall. The site includes Mulga woodland, hummock grassland, and river red gum forest. The SuperSite Core 1 ha is located in a dense Mulga woodland (cover 70–80%). The SuperSite has a second OzFlux tower at Ti Tree East where AusPlots are also located in a mosaic of hummock grassland/Corymbia savanna with patches of Mulga/tussock grass. A third study location in the SuperSite is a river red gum forest along the Woodforde river where sapflux sensors are installed.

Mulga west of the Woodforde River. This is patch has not received rain for very many months.

The vast expanse of Mulga north of Alice does have a wetland (fed by very shallow groundwater) which greens up when it rains and collects surface water. This represents a very very small fraction of the landscape (< 1 %) but provide welcome relief to the tired eye.

Site Details

  • Vegetation type: low open woodland - Mulga (Acacia aneura) and non-Acacia
  • Soils: eutrophic red kandosol
  • Elevation: approx. 560 m
  • Rainfall: 280 mm/yr
  • T mean: 30°C

The location of the proposed bores (blue dots) within three zones (yellow polygons). The yellow line running N-S is a highway.


Understanding the carbon, water and energy fluxes of arid and semi-arid zones will contribute to better land management as well as improved modelling of Australian weather, climate variability and the response of these zones to climate change.

Key research objectives

  • to examine the daily, seasonal and inter-annual patterns of energy, carbon and water fluxes of a central Australian arid-zone Mulga site and approx. 30 km east a non-Acacia dominated low open woodland site
  • to establish the responses and biological controls of energy, carbon and water fluxes to pulses of rain
  • to compare and contrast the behaviour of the soil, understorey and overstorey to pulses of rain by partitioning the fluxes between these three components of the ecosystem
  • to examine the impact of variation in soil moisture content (at multiple depths) and atmospheric vapour pressure deficit on the ecophysiology of the understorey and overstorey
  • to examine the influence of antecedent conditions on vegetation
  • to examine the resilience of woody vegetation in relation to high interannual weather variation and unpredictable events (flood, drought)

SuperSite installations

  • SuperSites core 1 ha (100 m x 100 m) is located within the fetch of the flux tower and is the focal site of recurrent monitoring and also an AusPlots plot (NTABRT0002).
  • two eddy-covariance flux towers (OzFlux system)
  • sapflux sensors
  • series of bores with nested piezometers
  • acoustic monitor
  • phenocams

Photosphere view of the Alice flux tower site (photo J. Cleverly)

These videos show animations of the Alice Flux tower 1 and Flux tower 2 sites. It was developed from footage captured by a drone and is used as data in Extrewafor, a Marie Curie IOF project on water use efficiency, a collaboration between the University of Technology Sydney and Ghent University.

TERN AusPlots sites in the Alice Mulga SuperSite

There are 6 AusPlots sites in the Alice Mulga SuperSite.

NTABRT0001Acacia aneura shrubland on red earth
NTABRT0002 (Core 1 ha plot)Acacia aneura shrubland on red earth
NTABRT0003Acacia aneura shrubland on sand
NTABRT0004Acacia aptaneura tall shrubland with isolated emergent Corymbia opaca. Tussock grass/hummock grass ground layer of Aristida holathera and Triodia schinzii
NTABRT0005Triodia schinzii, hummock grassland with Paraneurachne muelleri, Eragrostis eriopoda subsp. Red earth and Aristida holathera. Scattered emergent Corymbia opaca
NTABRT0006Acacia aptaneura tall open shrubland with scattered emergent Corymbia opaca. A tussock grass understory of Paraneurachne muelleri. Some scattered sparse clumps of Triodia schinzii in more open areas.

AusPlots monitoring data will be available through TERN’s Eco-informatics facility, which manage the data using its ÆKOS data repository.

TERN AusCover activities at the Alice Mulga SuperSite

AusCover has run airborne LiDAR and hyperspectral campaigns at the Alice Mulga SuperSite with ground calibration with SLATS star transects, leaf sampling, tree structure and LAI measures. Phenocams are installed on the flux tower to Integrate flux measurements and phenology to understand the impacts of climate change on Australian landscapes.

AusCover data is available from the AusCover Visualisation Portal and will also be available from the TERN Data Discovery Portal.

Slideshare presentation Phenocam Network: Australian Phenology Product Validation: Phenocam Network. 2014. K. Davies, M. Liddell, N. Weiand, C. Macfarlane, J. Byrne, V. R. des Dios, M. Boer, C. Maeir, N. Boulain, J. Cleverly, D. Eamus, G. Koerber, W. S. Meyer.

TERN eMAST activities at the Alice Mulga SuperSite

Plant ecophysiological measurements are being collected across a number of the TERN SuperSites including Alice Mulga by Owen Atkin's team (ANU) in a collaboration with TERN's eMAST facility. The aim is to look at ecosystem hydrology, net CO2 exchange and primary productivity in wet/dry and winter/summer.

The winter plant physiology campaign carried out on site by Owen Atkin's team (ANU) (photo J. Clerverly)

Slideshare presentation: Plant ecophysiological measurements at TERN SuperSites. 2013. O. Atkin, K. Bloomfield, L. Weerasinghe.
TERN OzFlux at the Alice Mulga SuperSite

OzFlux maintains the flux tower instrumentation that continuously measures exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapour and energy between the terrestrial ecosystem and atmosphere.

There are two flux towers operating at the Alice Mulga SuperSite, "Alice Springs Mulga" (at the core 1 ha) and "Ti Tree East".

Flux data is available from the OzFlux data portal


Postgraduate Projects and Post-docs associated with the Alice Mulga SuperSite

  • Tonantzin Tarin Terrazas (PhD candidate), Supervisor Prof. D. Eamus (UTS)
  • Dr Rachel Nolan, Prof D. Eamus (UTS)
  • Dr Nadia Santini. Prof D. Eamus (UTS)
  • Dr Natalia Restrepo, Prof Alfredo Huete (UTS). Integrating remote sensing, landscape flux measurements, and phenology to understand the impacts of climate change on Australian landscapes.

Presentations on the Alice Mulga SuperSite

Stable isotope (13C) analyses of vegetation across Australia. 2013. D. Eamus, R. Rumman, T. Wyczesany.

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