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Richard Thackway_A system for tracking anthropogenic changes in condition of Australia's plant communities


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Richard Thackway_A system for tracking anthropogenic changes in condition of Australia's plant communities

  1. 1. A system for tracking theanthropogenic changes in thecondition of Australia’s plantcommunitiesRichard ThackwayUniversity of Queensland TERN Symposium Feb 2013, Canberra
  2. 2. OutlineDrivers for vegetation condition informationConcepts and definitionsWhy VAST-2 was developedVAST-2 systemCase studiesConclusions
  3. 3. Drivers for information on changes in condition of vegetation types• NRM policy and program design e.g. • Implementing guidelines for conservation and management of threatened species EPBC ACT• Resource condition of native vegetation e.g. • A measure of sustainable use and management (public & private)• Monitoring and reporting and improvement e.g. • National, state & regional reporting e.g. SoE & SOFR
  4. 4. What is vegetation condition and transformation?• Changes vegetation caused by landuse /management • Structure • Composition Vegetation condition • Regenerative capacity• Condition and transformation are relative to a reference state for a plant community
  5. 5. VAST - A framework for reporting changes in vegetation condition Increasing vegetation modification from unmodified state 0 I II III IV V VI Vegetation thresholds Naturally Unmodified Modified Transformed Replaced - Replaced - Replaced - bare Adventive Managed Removed Condition states Transitions = trendReference for Native vegetation Non-native vegetationeach veg type(NVIS) cover cover Diagnostic attributes of VAST states: • Vegetation structure National Vegetation • Species composition Information System • Regenerative capacity Thackway & Lesslie (2008) Environmental Vegetation Assets States and Transitions (VAST) framework Management, 42, 572-90
  6. 6. Vegetation condition – a snapshotThackway & Lesslie (2008) NB: Input dataset biophysical naturalness reclassified usingEnvironmental Management, 42, 572-90 VAST framework
  7. 7. Why VAST-2 was developed?• To implement the ‘T’ (Transition) of the VAST framework • i.e. track changes in vegetation condition over time• To propose a standardised national system • for compiling data on cause & effect of management on native plant communities • For reporting changes in vegetation condition over time
  8. 8. Models of ecosystem changeReference Settlement Change in vegetation indicator 0 1000 TimeSource: Adamson and Fox (1982).
  9. 9. Models of ecosystem change Reference Anthropogenic change Change in vegetation indicator Net impact Relaxation Occupation 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 TimeBased on Hamilton, Brown & Nolan 2008. FWPA PRO7.1050. pg 18Land use impacts on biodiversity and Life Cycle Analysis
  10. 10. VAST-2 System
  11. 11. Aim to develop a national system for reporting veg transformations Long Long term term disturbance rainfall e.g. Reference state Indigenous wildfire, cycl land ones management Site 1 Firstmodification explorers Degree of Grazing Logging Revegetation Site 2 Cropping Site 3 Time
  12. 12. Extensive network of collaborators used to compile an historical recordInputs• Land use• Land management practices• Natural events e.g. droughts, fires, floods, cyclones, average rainfall 1900-2012 etc• Observed interactions e.g. rabbits, sheep and drought• Observations and quantitative measures of effects • Include written, oral, artistic, photographic and remote sensing
  13. 13. General process for tracking changes Transformation site VAST-2 system Reference state/sites Step 1a Step 3aUse a checklist of 22 indicators to compile Literature review to determine the changes in LU & LMP* and plant baseline conditions for 22 indicators community responses over time Step 2 Step 4 Step 3b Step 1b Document responses of 22 Document the reference Evaluate the influence of climate, soilEvaluate the influence of climate, soil and indicators over time states for 22 indicators and landform for the reference site landform on the historical record Step 3c Step 1c Compile indicator data for 22Evaluate impacts on the plant community indicators for reference site over time Step 5 Score all 22 indicators for ‘transformation site’ relative to the ‘reference site’. 0 = major change; 1 = no change Step 6 Derive weighted indices for the three components for the ‘transformation site’ i.e. regenerative capacity (58%), vegetation structure (27%) and species composition (18%) by adding predefined indicators Step 7 Add the indices for the three components to generate total transformation index for the ‘transformation site’ for each year of the historical record .* LU Land use Validate using Expert KnowledgeLMP Land management practices
  14. 14. Condition Attribute Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference statecomponents groups (22) (3) (10) Fire regime Area /size of fire foot prints Number of fire starts Soil hydrology Soil surface water availability Regenerative capacity Ground water availability Soil physical Depth of the A horizon state Soil structure Soil nutrient Nutrient stress – rundown (deficiency) relative to soil fertility state Nutrient stress – excess (toxicity) relative to soil fertility Soil biological Recyclers responsible for maintaining soil porosity and nutrient recycling state Surface organic matter, soil crusts Reproductive Reproductive potential of overstorey structuring species potential Reproductive potential of understorey structuring species Overstorey Overstorey top height (mean) of the plant community Vegetation structure structure Overstorey foliage projective cover (mean) of the plant community Overstorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the stand Understorey Understorey top height (mean) of the plant community structure Understorey ground cover (mean) of the plant community Understorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the plant Overstorey Densities of overstorey species functional groups Composition composition Species Relative number of overstorey species (richness) of indigenous to exotic species Understorey Densities of understorey species functional groups composition Relative number of understorey species (richness) of indigenous to exotic species
  15. 15. 1 VAST-2 hierarchy 3 Vegetation 10 Transformation score 22Diagnosticattributes Regenerative Vegetation Species Capacity Structure Composition (55%) (27%) (18%)Attribute Reprod groups Fire Soil Overstorey Understorey Overstorey Understorey potent (3) (3) (2) (2) (2) (2) Structure Nutrients Biology Hydrology (2) (2) (2) (2) Indicators
  16. 16. Case studies VAST-2
  17. 17. Qld, WT Bioregion, Wooroonooran Nature RefugeReference pre-European: Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest VAST classes Unmodified Indigenous Logging Clearing & Start of Weeds & End Weed people conversion to grazing rainforest grazing removal - manage pasture pasture invading pastures Lantana the area
  18. 18. NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, Rocky Creek DamReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest VAST classes Unmodified Indigenous Clearing and Start of grazing End Removal Commenced people conversion to exotic pasture grazing of weeds monitoring of manage pasture pastures Lantana - regeneration the area Privet
  19. 19. NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, TintenbarReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest VAST classes Unmodified Indigenous Unmodified Clearing and Start of Start of End of Invasion of Rainforest people and intact conversion ploughing grazing grazing weeds seedlings manage rainforest & cropping exotic pastures including established the area pasture Camphor under dense laurel Camphor forest
  20. 20. ACT, SEH Bioregion, Blundells Flat, ex-coupe 424,Reference pre-European: Brown Barrel open forest VAST classes Unmodified Indigenous Water 1st rotation Coupe ripped and Area burnt by Site left to people catchment Pinus radiata mounded. 2nd severe wildfire rehabilitate manage area planted rotation P. radiata killed all pines. the area declared for planted Dead pines, Canberra pushed, heaped and burnt
  21. 21. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 3a, 7a, 7b, 7c Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest VAST classes Unmodified Explorers Commenced Area Cleared & Ceased Area Commenced CommencedIndigenous traverse grazing logged for sown to grazing. gazetted as managing area managingpeople the area native building improved Area State Forest, as a future area formanage the and site pastures houses pasture for purchased commenced production recreation.area selected and fences grazing & as a future planting forest. Weed Weed control. orchard working arboretum control Arboretum forest abandoned
  22. 22. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 8b, 9a, 9b Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest VAST classes Unmodified Site fenced. Tree cover Trees Ceased Cleared and Commenced Initiated 1stIndigenous Commenced Commenced thinned logged for grazing. commenced managing hazardpeople grazing cattle continuous for cattle housing, f Purchased & regrowing area reductionmanage the stocking grazing ences & declared as a forest as a primarily burnarea with cattle fire wood State forest future forest for production recreation
  23. 23. Impact and adoptionInvited case studies (in press): • 2013 State of the Forests Report (DAFF) andInvited case studies (in prep): • Great Western Woodlands (WA DEC) • Recreation and production forestry (Forests NSW) • Mine site restoration (ALCOA Bauxite mine WA) • Brigalow recovery plan (UQ BBS bioregion)
  24. 24. Demonstrating sustainable landuse/ management at paired sites 100 VAST-2 transformation index 80 Change due to land management 60 Change due to other 40 causes including natural processes 20 0 time now time n + Production forestry continues unchanged Change from production forestry to conservation
  25. 25. TERN data portals & DOI Minting
  26. 26. Conclusions• VAST-2 highlights the value and importance of engaging a wide network of collaborators e.g. • ecologists, academics, land managers, environmental historians, educators, industry and community• VAST-2 acknowledges the role of land managers i.e. cause and effect of landuse/management• As a system VAST-2 has value in: • Synthesizing information and ‘telling the story’ of vegetation transformation • Reporting progress toward vegetation condition targets
  27. 27. More information• VAST-2 sites plotted using Google earth• Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for VAST-2 sites!/q=(vegetation%20transfor mation)/p=1/tab=collection/num=10• VAST-2 Handbook and brochure
  28. 28. • University of Queensland, Department of Geography Planning and Environmental Management for ongoing research support of the• TERN ACEAS funded my sabbatical at the University of Queensland, Brisbane in 2010-11• CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences for hosting me as a visiting research scientist, Canberra in 2010-11• Many public and private land managers, land management agencies, consultants and researchers have provided data and information