About SuperSites BioImage

SuperSites is a facility of Australia's Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). A SuperSite is a long-term research site, established in significant biomes across Australia, to collect a wide range of data to develop a better understanding of ecosystem function. An extensive suite of measures is carried out at each SuperSite using both classical field methods and sensor systems to provide consistent data sets describing flora, fauna and biophysical processes. Open access to data and metadata is available to researchers, educators, natural resource managers and the public through dedicated data portals.

SuperSites BioImage portal enables scientists and general public to browse, view, and download plant image data collected by TERN. SuperSites collects different type of images from ecological field sites across Australia:

  • Phenocamera images: time-lapse images taken from PhenoCameras
  • Leaf Area Index images: canopy images to calculate Leaf Area Index
  • Photopoint images: quality photos taken from several points on a plot

Those images provide visual records of changes over time in these typical and important ecosystem types. A short summary for each image type is provided below. Further details of image collection methods can be accessed from the SuperSites Vegetation Monitoring Protocol.

Leaf Area Index images

Leaf area index (LAI) relates to the total one sided area of leaf tissue per unit area of ground and is a key derived parameter that is associated with vegetation water and light interception, radiation transfer, water and carbon exchange. Leaf area index is the preferred measure of cover for vegetation and a key variable used in total vegetation biomass estimation and in carbon cycling prediction models.

Upward facing images of canopy or sky are collected using digital cameras with standard lenses (Digital Cover Photography - DCP) or hemispheric lens (Digital Hemispheric Photography - DHP) according to vegetation canopy height. DCP is recommended for medium stature (10-40 m) vegetation with simple structure and DHP is recommended for short vegetation (4-8 m), complex (multi strata) and tall vegetation (> 40+ m). Images are collected from points on a grid across the 1 ha plot (DCP - 10 m spacing, DHP - 20 m spacing). Calculated LAI data can be sourced from the SuperSites Data Portal by searching for “Leaf Area Index Data". LAI images are made available on the SuperSites BioImages Portal for download and reanalysis.

Phenocam images

The phenocam images are time-lapse photographs collected by phenocams (fixed digital cameras) to enable tracking of seasonal changes in vegetation and ground cover. Phenocams are cost-effective tools for monitoring diverse and sometimes remote Australian biomes. Image data collected over the long-term will allow the recording and analysis of ecological responses to climate variability and extreme weather events that can be used to better inform natural resource management and contribute to the goal of developing an environmental change predictive capability.

The phenocams located at TERN SuperSites provide a long-term record of vegetation structure and condition. It is used in studies of surface-atmosphere exchanges of carbon and water as facilitated by TERN OzFlux eddy covariance towers collocated at SuperSites. Phenocam data is also used to link ground-based observations with what is observed by airborne and satellite observation platforms. TERN's AusCover facility uses phenocam images to calibrate and validate satellite-derived remote sensing data to effectively scale up from intensively monitored sites to larger spatial domains up to the continental scale.

Photopoint images

The photopoint images are high quality digital photos of ecological field sites taken annually to record natural phenomena and how sites change over time. The images are taken using the five point photopoint method to create reference images for the core 1 ha vegetation plot.

Five Photopoint Method

Four photographs are taken at each of five photopoints on the 1 hectare plot as shown in Figure 1. The camera is to be mounted on a tripod with the central part of the camera lens at 1.3 m. The photographic sequence should be taken between 10 am and 4 pm (where possible) to minimise sun and shadow effects.

Figure 1: Photopoints for SuperSites core 1 ha vegetation plot.

The photos at each corner are to be taken in the direction of the four cardinal compass points and the photos at the centre of the plot are to be taken in the direction of each corner. Vegetation within 1 m of the photopoint is to be removed or pushed aside.