Productivity and Biomass of Australia’s Rangelands: Towards a National Database

Porfirio, L. L., Antille, D. L., Watson, I., Abbott, B. N., Bowman, D. M. J. S., Briggs, P. R., Canadell, J. G. Churchill, A. C., Donohue, R. J., Guerschman, J. P., Haverd, V., Hill, M. J., Knauer, J., Murphy, B. P., Paget, M., Prior, L. D., Roxburgh, S. H., and Williamson, G. J. (2020)


This paper reviews information about field observations of vegetation productivity in Australia’s rangeland systems and identifies the need to establish a national initiative to collect net primary productivity (NPP) and biomass data for rangeland pastures. Productivity data are needed for vegetation and carbon model parameterisation, calibration and validation. Several methods can be used to estimate pasture productivity at various spatial and temporal scales, ranging from in situ measurements to satellite-based approaches and biogeochemical modelling. However, there is a barrier to implementing national vegetation and carbon modelling schemes because of the lack of digitised and readily available data derived from field observations, not because of the lack of modelling expertise. Our main goal in this paper is to explore the potential for consolidation of existing NPP and biomass databases for Australian rangelands. A protocol structure was proposed to establish a productivity database for Australia. The TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network) national field data network for rangeland pasture productivity monitoring and modelling team could potentially coordinate the database. Government agencies and national and international research institutions could use the outputs from productivity models to inform greenhouse gas emissions and in measuring mitigation activities relevant for reporting against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and other international obligations. Other applications include monitoring fire danger, tracking ecological restoration and protection, and estimating fodder availability. Australian researchers have the tools needed to succeed in creating such a national database and a robust community of practice to curate it, enhance it and benefit from its availability. Keywords: arid/semi-arid rangelands, biophysical models, land management, productivity database, rangeland monitoring and management, vegetation and carbon modelling.