The Australian Phenocam Network is a collaboration that archives and distributes time-lapse images from a wide range of Australian biomes collected by fixed digital cameras to enable tracking of seasonal changes in vegetation and ground cover.
The Australian Phenocam Network was developed through a partnership between two Australian National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) facilities, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) and Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF).
Tim Brown at the Borevitz Lab (Australian National University) and the Australian SuperSite Network (SuperSites) are the foundation members of the Australian Phenocam Network. Parts of the website and timelapse player code are derived from the TraitCapture and NCRIS Australian Plant Phenomics Facility projects.
Phenocams (and the web services to view and manage their data) are a vital tool in TERN's delivery of a continental scale ecosystem observatory and the APPF goals of providing state-of the art phenotyping tools for the development of new and improved crops and agricultural practices.
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.
Contributing to the Network
Phenocam images contributed to the APN are expected to contribute to Australia's ecosystem research and be used as tools by natural resource managers. If you would like to become a collaborator or contributor to the Australian Phenocam Network archives, please contact Tim Brown.
Contributors and collaborators may submit their phenocam images to the APN database under licensing terms suitable to the contributor and must be accompanied with enough metadata to allow the effective re-use of data by others. Data will be made available to the public using licensing terms preferred by the contributor, though the APN encourages the use of open or least restrictive licences possible such as the Creative Commons 4.0 International suite of the licences.
How Phenocam Data is Used
Phenocams provide data streams at local and landscape scales that can be used in diverse ways. The "near-remote sensing" of vegetation and landscapes by phenocams has a number of advantages compared to satellite derived data including imagery that is continuous in time, unaffected by cloud cover and finer scale information at the canopy level down to individual plants. See Brown et al., 2016 [LINK] for more detail on the scientific applications of phenocams.
The phenocams located at TERN SuperSites provide a long-term record of vegetation structure and condition and aide 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.
The Australian Phenocam Network is a collaborative network of volunteer sites that contribute phenocam images from around Australia. The TERN Australian SuperSite Network provides data feeds from 10 SuperSites across Australia. There are currently a mix of RGB and spectral, stand-alone and Internet Protocol addressable cameras located on flux towers and on the ground to capture understorey images at each SuperSite. SuperSites image data can be downloaded free of charge under an open licence though the SuperSites BioImage Data Portal (in development).
Validation activities include:
scaling of stand-level heterogeneity of greenness to satellite view
validation of growing season metrics (Start/Peak/End/Length of Season)
study of fire dynamics
bare soil fraction.
Phenocam images also provide details on mechanisms of changes viewed by satellite:
relationship of tree and grass layer to satellite data
relationship to number, colour or age of leaves.
The AusCover Phenology Validation protocol can be found here.
Collecting Phenocam data from SuperSites allows monitoring of the direction and magnitude of changes to vegetation phenology due to climate change and extreme weather events. Monitoring growing season metrics including rate of green up and drying will allow us to determine relationships between phenology and ecosystem functions by comparison with TERN OzFlux eddy covariance data collected from the same sites.
As the Phenocam network is further automated and standardised, the resulting data will contribute to improve ecosystem models being developed by the TERN e-MAST facility and others. These models, validated by field data, will improve our ability to predict the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on Australian ecosystems, allowing for informed development of management strategies and policy decisions.
Phenocam images at the SuperSites also provide landscape context for field observations.
Understory Phenocams at Litchfield Savanna SuperSite with before and after fire photos from July 2013
Phenocam imagery collected at the Great Western Woodlands SuperSite shows the ability of the soil to take up about half the annual rainfall (130 mm) delivered in the one storm (January 21, 2014) at Credo.
Phenocam images from the Calperum Mallee SuperSite just prior to and just after the fire, Jan 2014