Abstract: Mulga woodlands and shrublands are distributed across ~ 20 % of the Australian continent and are one of the dominant vegetation types of the semi-arid zone, with a long history of pastoralism. More recently, Mulga woodlands have been subject to increasing pressures from other landuses, including expansion of the mining industry and development of regional infrastructure. There is a pressing need for improved design and implementation of monitoring systems in Mulga woodlands and shrublands that are capable of attributing any detected changes in their composition, structure and function to anthropogenic impacts. We discuss some of the shortcomings of much of the current monitoring using examples from recent reviews and highlight the importance of designing monitoring systems that can relate cause and effect rather than simply observing change. We also highlight critical considerations for the design of future monitoring programs including, but not limited to, terrain features and soils, natural processes including fire and flood, stand demographics and composition, management history and the importance of redundancy/robustness in the design. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the power of a monitoring program can be improved through comparisons with other datasets, highlighting the importance of data standards and procedures among projects.