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Great Western Woodlands chosen as a science supersite!

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The Australian Supersite Network (ASN) has chosen the Great Western Woodlands to be part of an Australian Government initiative the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN).

This initiative aims to collect, store, manage and share scientific data about Australian ecosystems. By setting up a nationally consistent network of multidisciplinary and intensive research facilities the ASN is investigating how key ecosystems will respond to future environmental change.

Each of these ecosystem observatories termed “supersites” examine the status and processes of one Australia’s many ecosystems. Located across a range of Australian biomes, the sites have a main central study area and at least one topographical or ecological transect. Detailed data sets on flora, fauna and biophysical processes are collected from each Supersite.

Credo, a former pastoral lease, now managed by DEC is located about 70 km North West of Kalgoorlie and has been chosen as a supersite in the Great Western Woodlands.

While Credo comprises of a mosaic of  vegetation types, most importantly it has a relatively large area of uncut old growth woodland where the central ‘Oz Flux’ climate station can monitor energy, water and carbon balance.

This is representative of the iconic vegetation type of the Great Western Woodlands, the largest remaining intact temperate or 'Mediterranean' woodlands in the world. Due to the lack of rainfall and harshness of this environment the region has remained virtually intact. Similar ecosystems around the world have been largely affected by habitat fragmentation and removal for agriculture and development.

The Great Western Woodlands provides a unique opportunity to study how semi-arid woodland ecosystems function at site and landscape scales, and how naturally functioning, intact ecosystems can adapt to climate change. The Woodlands research also offers significant potential to inform climate-resilient restoration for the Western Australian Wheatbelt, and can contribute to policy and practice around mine dewatering and post mining rehabilitation.

The key research questions for the TERN site relate to the impacts of climate change and management on the fundamental flows of energy, carbon, water and nutrient stocks, and on biodiversity, in semi-arid woodland ecosystems nationally and globally.

In particular;

  • Are old-growth semi-arid woodlands carbon sources or carbon sinks?
  • Where do woodland eucalypts obtain their water from?
  • How do topographic mosaics regulate floristic composition and provide resilience to climate change?
  • What are the ecological determinants of the Menzies line (the striking boundary between the GWW and mulga dominated shrublands to the north) and will it shift under climate change?

For more information, visit TERN