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Transformation of Australia’s vegetated landscapes. Richard Thackway ACEAS Grand 2014

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Transformation of Australia’s vegetated landscapes. Presentation by Richard Thackway, ACEAS sabbatical fellow, ACEAS Grand 2014

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Transformation of Australia’s vegetated landscapes. Richard Thackway ACEAS Grand 2014

  1. 1. Transformation of Australia’s vegetated landscapes Richard Thackway A system for tracking the anthropogenic changes in the condition of Australia’s plant communities
  2. 2. Outline • Concepts and definitions • VAST-2 system • Case study • Influence /impacts • Conclusions
  3. 3. Aim: To develop a standardised national system for assessing changes in native vegetation condition over time
  4. 4. Occupation Relaxation Anthropogenic change Net gain/ benefit Time 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 Vegetationmodificationscore Reference Transformation pathway - model
  5. 5. Occupation Relaxation Anthropogenic change Net gain/ benefit Time 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 Vegetationmodificationscore Reference Build a system based on learning from Australian case studies Transformation pathway - model
  6. 6. Definitions - Condition and transformation • Change in a plant community (type) due to effects of land management practices: • Structure • Composition • Regenerative capacity • Resilience = the capacity of an plant community to recover toward a reference state following a change/s in management • Transformation = changes to vegetation condition over time • Condition, resilience and transformation are assessed relative to fully natural a reference state Vegetation condition
  7. 7. Land managers affect native veg condition in space and over time Process: Land managers use land management practices (LMP) to influence ecological function at sites and the landscape by: • Modifying • Removing and replacing • Enhancing • Restoring • Maintaining • Improving Purpose/s: To achieve the desired mix of ecosystem services (space & time)
  8. 8. Focus on tracking effects of land management on key ecological criteria Soil Vegetation 1. Soil hydrological status 2. Soil physical status 3. Soil nutrient status 4. Soil biological status 5. Fire regime 6. Reproductive potential 7. Overstorey structure 8. Understorey structure 9. Overstorey composition 10. Understorey composition
  9. 9. Focus on tracking effects of land management on key ecological criteria Soil Vegetation Regenerative capacity/ function 1. Soil hydrological status 2. Soil physical status 3. Soil nutrient status 4. Soil biological status 5. Fire regime 6. Reproductive potential 7. Overstorey structure 8. Understorey structure 9. Overstorey composition 10. Understorey composition
  10. 10. Focus on tracking effects of land management on key ecological criteria Soil Vegetation Regenerative capacity/ function Vegetation structure & Species composition 1. Soil hydrological status 2. Soil physical status 3. Soil nutrient status 4. Soil biological status 5. Fire regime 6. Reproductive potential 7. Overstorey structure 8. Understorey structure 9. Overstorey composition 10. Understorey composition
  11. 11. Generate total indices for ‘transformation site’ for each year of the historical record. Validate using Expert Knowledge • Compile and collate effects of land management on criteria (10) and indicators (22) over time. • Evaluate impacts on the plant community over time Transformation site • Compile and collate data / information on criteria (10) and indicators (22). Assumed steady state Reference state/sites Score all 22 indicators for ‘transformation site’ relative to the ‘reference site’. 0 = major change; 1 = no change Derive weighted indices for the ‘transformation site’ i.e. regenerative capacity (58%), vegetation structure (27%) and species composition (18%) by adding predefined indicators General process for tracking change over time using the VAST-2 system
  12. 12. Condition components (3) [VAST] VAST-2 Criteria (10) VAST-2 Indicators of vegetation and ecological processes (22) Regenerativecapacity Fire regime 1. Area /size of fire foot prints 2. Number of fire starts Soil hydrology 3. Soil surface water availability 4. Ground water availability Soil physical state 5. Depth of the A horizon 6. Soil structure Soil nutrient state 7. Nutrient stress – rundown (deficiency) relative to soil fertility 8. Nutrient stress – excess (toxicity) relative to soil fertility Soil biological state 9. Recyclers responsible for maintaining soil porosity and nutrient recycling 10. Surface organic matter, soil crusts Reproductive potential 11. Reproductive potential of overstorey structuring species 12. Reproductive potential of understorey structuring species Vegetation structure Overstorey structure 13. Overstorey top height (mean) of the plant community 14. Overstorey foliage projective cover (mean) of the plant community 15. Overstorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the stand Understorey structure 16. Understorey top height (mean) of the plant community 17. Understorey ground cover (mean) of the plant community 18. Understorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the plant Species Composition Overstorey composition 19. Densities of overstorey species functional groups 20. Relative number of overstorey species (richness) of indigenous :exotic spp Understorey composition 21. Densities of understorey species functional groups 22. Relative number of understorey species (richness) of indigenous :exotic spp
  13. 13. Data synthesis and hierarchy Site
  14. 14. Data synthesis and hierarchy Site Indicators 22
  15. 15. Data synthesis and hierarchy Site Criteria 9 Indicators 22
  16. 16. Data synthesis and hierarchy Site Diagnostic attributes 3 Criteria 9 Indicators 22
  17. 17. Data synthesis and hierarchy Site Transformation score/site /year 1 Diagnostic attributes 3 Criteria 9 Indicators 22
  18. 18. 1 3 9 22 reprod potent understoreyoverstoreyfire soil structure nutrients biology overstorey understorey Criteria hydrology understorey overstorey Data synthesis and hierarchy 22 indicators
  19. 19. 1 3 9 22 Diagnostic attributes Regenerative capacity Vegetation structure Species composition reprod potent understoreyoverstoreyfire soil structure nutrients biology overstorey understorey Criteria hydrology understorey overstorey Data synthesis and hierarchy 22 indicators
  20. 20. 1 3 9 22 Diagnostic attributes Regenerative capacity Vegetation structure Species composition Vegetation Transformation score reprod potent understoreyoverstoreyfire soil structure nutrients biology overstorey understorey Criteria hydrology understorey overstorey Data synthesis and hierarchy 22 indicators
  21. 21. Case study Bridge Hill Ridge, Myall Lakes, NSW Tracking sand dune transformation before, during and after sand dune mining
  22. 22. High sand dune case study Sand mining path Bridge Hill Ridge Figure: Barry Fox
  23. 23. Bridge Hill Ridge, 1976 & 1991 1976 1991 Source: Geoscience Australia, © Australian Titanium Minerals Industry Smiths Lake
  24. 24. Bridge Hill Ridge, 2011 Case study site - Field visit January 2014 Smiths Lake
  25. 25. VAST-2 key ecological criteria & indicators Reference state Transformation site Fire regime * * Soil hydrology * * Soil physical state * ** Soil nutrient state ** * Soil biological state * * Reproductive potential *** *** Overstorey vegetation structure *** ** Understorey vegetation structure *** *** Overstorey species composition *** *** Understorey species composition *** *** Populating the VAST-2 criteria *** Quantitative data /info * Qualitative data /info
  26. 26. Importance of dynamics Rainfall is assumed to be main driver of system dynamics • Period 1900 - 2013 • Average seasonal rainfall (summer, autumn, …) • Rainfall anomaly is calculated above and below the mean • Two year running trend line fitted NB: Must calibrate remote sensing to account for rainfall dynamics, e.g. ground cover, greenness and foliage projective cover
  27. 27. Seasonal rainfall anomaly (Lat -32.404, Long 152.496) -2 -1 0 1 2 3 1901 1904 1907 1910 1913 1916 1919 1922 1925 1928 1931 1934 1937 1940 1943 1946 1949 1952 1955 1958 1961 1964 1967 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006 2009 2012 Spring -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 1901 1904 1907 1910 1913 1916 1919 1922 1925 1928 1931 1934 1937 1940 1943 1946 1949 1952 1955 1958 1961 1964 1967 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006 2009 2012 Winter -4 -2 0 2 4 6 1901 1904 1907 1910 1913 1916 1919 1922 1925 1928 1931 1934 1937 1940 1943 1946 1949 1952 1955 1958 1961 1964 1967 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006 2009 2012 Autumn -2 -1 0 1 2 3 1901 1904 1907 1910 1913 1916 1919 1922 1925 1928 1931 1934 1937 1940 1943 1946 1949 1952 1955 1958 1961 1964 1967 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006 2009 2012 Summer Source: BOM
  28. 28. Are we there yet? Results
  29. 29. Bridge Hill Ridge- post mining restoration
  30. 30. Predictions of mature forest (Bunning’s Enquiry 1974) Bridge Hill Ridge- post mining restoration
  31. 31. Influence/impacts Invitations to contribute to methods & reporting - tracking veg-related environmental outcomes • Murray Darling Basin Authority 2014 – environmental flows • Australian Sand Mining Ann Conf 2014 – nat veg restoration • Niche Envt & Heritage & Rio Tinto 2014 - nat veg restoration • Wentworth Group’s 2014 – Regional Environmental Accounts • Institute of Forestry Australia Conf 2013 – post logging effects • Aust Govt’s rangelands tech working group – C sequestration • State of the Forests Report 2013 – Forest condition
  32. 32. http://portal.tern.org.au/search
  33. 33. http://aceas-data.science.uq.edu.au/portal/
  34. 34. Conclusions • Method has been successfully applied in selected tropical, arid and temperate plant communities • VAST-2 has value for: • Synthesizing information (quantitative and qualitative) • Engaging land managers and ecologists as equal players • Useful as an accounting tool for tracking change in the condition of vegetated landscapes • Report card helps ‘tell the story’ of landscape transformation • Investigations of scaling-up the method to a landscape level are promising
  35. 35. More info & Acknowledgements More information http://portal.tern.org.au/search http://aceas-data.science.uq.edu.au/portal/ http://www.vasttransformations.com/ Acknowledgements • University of Queensland, Department of Geography Planning and Environmental Management for ongoing research support • Many public and private land managers, land management agencies, consultants and researchers have assisted in the development of VAST & VAST-2

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