Australian phenology monitoring network PDF Print E-mail

Developing an Australian phenology monitoring network using near-surface remote sensing

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Project overview

Plant phenology is highly sensitive to climate, thus serving as an excellent indicator of the potential impacts of climate change. Phenological changes not only affect plant function, but have multiple cascading effects throughout ecosystems. This makes the accurate monitoring of phenology key to understanding the response of Australian vegetation to a changing climate.

So how do we design next generation phenology monitoring? Satellite remote sensing offers valuable information on large-scale phenology, but is hampered by either coarse spatial or temporal resolution, and interference from cloud cover. Ground observations offer the most direct assessment of phenological status, but are prohibitively manually intensive. Luckily, recent advances in near-surface remote sensing technologies promise to resolve the issues related to ground observations and satellite data, and bridge the gap between the two.

Digital repeat photography is becoming widely used for near surface remote sensing of vegetation (Sonnentag et al., 2011). Canopy greenness, which has been used extensively for phenological applications, can be readily quantified from camera images, providing a wealth of information regarding vegetation state and function (Keenan et al., 2014). The application of the technology to the field of phenological research is emerging worldwide, and is being coupled with advances in drone technology. Through leveraging the TERN network, and the multitude of newly established OzFlux sites, Australia is in an excellent position to become a world leader in the field. This workshop seeks to kickstart that effort, by building the community that will make it happen.


Keenan, T. F., O. Sonnentag, M. Friedl, K. Hufkens, J. William Munger, M. Toomey, and A. D. Richardson (2014) Tracking forest phenology and seasonal physiology using digital repeat photography: a critical assessment. Ecological Applications (in press).
Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, M. Marquis, K. Avery, M. M. B. Tignor, H. L. J. Miller, and Z. Chen (2007) IPCC 2007 Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. p 996 (S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, and M. Marq, Eds.) Journal of Geophysical Research. Cambridge University Press.
Sonnentag, O., K. Hufkens, C. TesheraSterne, A. M. Young, M. Friedl, B. H. Braswell, T. Milliman, J. O’Keefe, and A.D. Richardson (2012) Digital repeat photography for phenological research in forest ecosystems. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 152: 159-177.



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Developing an Australian phenology monitoring network using near-surface remote sensing


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Developing an Australian phenology monitoring network using near-surface remote sensing


For further information about this group, please contact either of the Principal Investigators, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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Workshop report



The objective of this workshop was to answer the question: how do we effectively monitor phenology in Australia? To that end, ACEAS brought together 14 experts from Australia, China and the United States for a week of discussions and data analysis on Stradbroke Island, Queensland Australia.


The broad objectives of the meeting were to assess the utility of digital repeat photography for monitoring Australian vegetation, and to outline standard operating procedures, data standards and hardware recommendations for the design of an Australian phenocam network.


Our analysis and discussions highlight several results of importance, both with regard to data management and analysis, and the effective design of an automated network for phenological monitoring. Motivated by the workshop, we drafted a white paper providing guidance for the deployment of PhenoCams in Australia, which outlines a roadmap for the development of the Australian PhenoCam network.


The development of an Australian phenology monitoring network goes far beyond the monitoring of phenology. Australian ecosystems demonstrate complex canopy dynamics both within and between years, in response to the large variability in the Australian climate. An Australian PhenoCam network promises the ability to monitor temporal canopy dynamics in an automated, distributed, and (most importantly!) cost-effective manner. The resulting data should greatly improve our understanding of how Australian ecosystems respond to changes in Australian climate, help us build better models, and ultimately improve our ability to project how Australian ecosystems are likely to change in the coming century. In the face of climate change, such information is vital to inform policy decisions and management strategies alike.



There is a great report of this meeting on the Australian Energy and Water Exchange Network (OzEWEX) web site.


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Workshop Participants
Standing left to right: Eva van Gorsel (CSIRO, TERN OzFlux), Mike Liddell (James Cook University, TERN Supersite Network), Natalia Restrepo-Coupe (University of Technology Sydney), Duursma (University of Western Sydney), Tim Brown (Australian National University), Jeff Taylor (NEON, USA), Ivan Hanigan (Australian National University, TERN LTERN), Yu Liu (Chinese Ecosystem Research Network). Front left to right: Trevor Keenan (Macquarie University), Caitlin Moore (Monash University, OzFlux) Absent from photo: Albert van Dijk (Australian National University, OzEWEX), Stefan Maier (Charles Darwin University), Grant Thorp (Plant & Food Research Australia Pty Ltd). Remote participants: Andrew Richardson (Harvard University, USA) and Oliver Sonnentag (University of Montreal, Canada).

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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 15:31