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February 20th, 2013
CSIRO Opens up an Instrumented Rainforest Research Plot

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CSIRO and Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN)have established Australia’s first large-scale rainforest research plot at Robson Creek in North Queensland. The 25 hectare plot will allow scientists to monitor the rainforest over the long term and answer questions about the health of this highly biodiverse Australian ecosystem.


A 25 hectare rainforest plot has been established at Robson Creek in North Queensland, which together with the Daintree Rainforest Observatory makes up the FNQ Rainforest Supersite. It is one of 10 ‘Supersites’ established around the country by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) representing important Australian ecosystems.


The Robson Creek plot will initially collect baseline ecological data which will be used to monitor the ecosystem over the long term. Two important components of the FNQ Rainforest Supersite are the vegetation census (CSIRO) and the installation of a flux tower to measure gas exchange (James Cook University). Each Supersite also collects data on invertebrates, vertebrates, soil, water and plant physiology.

Establishing the plot

In December 2012, CSIRO completed the tree census of 23,400 stems greater than 10 cm diameter.  These stems will be monitored over the long term to measure changes in forest dynamics such as growth rate and stem mortality. CSIRO has also intensively assessed a focal hectare on the 25 hectare plot and collected data on species diversity, coarse woody debris and forest structure.

Research and data collection

In the short term, the data collected at the site will be used to accurately estimate biomass and carbon held in rainforest systems, determine dominance and diversity of plants, and investigate spatial relationships between plant species, topography, water and soil. Researchers investigating fauna, gas exchange, soil and water will also find the vegetation data invaluable. Floristic records of the 212 species will be used to extend known ranges of plants in the wet tropics.

On a global scale, the Robson Creek 25ha plot will become part of the Centre for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) global network of forest research plots which will allow for comparisons with similar forests around the world.


CSIRO is working with a range of partners to carry out research on the Robson Creek plot:

  • Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN)
  • James Cook University
  • Griffith University
  • La Trobe University

Find out more about CSIRO Biodiversity research.


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