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All is not what it seems - Why integrate land management and ecological literacy over space and time?

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The condition of native vegetation types is changed and transformed over time by land use and land management practices. Intensive natural events are illustrated which effect vegetation structure and composition in the short term. Long term interactions between intensive natural events such as firestorms, windstorms and pest animals are presented. The VAST-2 system is used to illustrate several case studies including sand mining, sheep and cattle grazing, pest animals and cropping.
This lecture was given to the Fenner School, Australian National University as part of an intensive post graduate course (ENVS 2022/6012, Sustainable Systems: Rural (2015)).

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All is not what it seems - Why integrate land management and ecological literacy over space and time?

  1. 1. All is not what it seems - Why integrate land management and ecological literacy over space and time? Richard Thackway Fenner School, Australian National University ENVS 2022/6012, Sustainable Systems: Rural (2015) 14 July 2015
  2. 2. Outline • Why is native vegetation important? • All is not what it seems – spatial & temporal change • How land use modifies and fragments native vegetation • Case studies • Lessons • Conclusions and more information
  3. 3. To understand landscape transformation we to understand why land managers change the structure, composition and function of native vegetation
  4. 4. Historic goals of land managers over time Values and decisions matrix: • Social • Economic • Environmental Intensification Degradation? State @ t1 State @ t2 State @ t3 Development
  5. 5. Regulation of hydrological regime Generation of food and fibre Regulation of climate / microclimate Generation of raw materials Recycling of organic matter Creating and regulating habitats Controlling reproduction and dispersal LMP are used to change ecological function to derive multiple benefits (ecosystem services) t1 t2 t3 Time State@t1 State@t2 State@t3 LMP = land management practicesYapp & Thackway 2015
  6. 6. Current & future goals of land managers Values and decisions matrix: • Social • Economic • Environmental Extensification Restoration State @ t1 Regeneration State @ t2 State @ t3 Thackway & Lesslie 2006
  7. 7. Why is native vegetation extent and condition important? State and Commonwealth Acts and regulations Yapp, Walker & Thackway 2010
  8. 8. Understanding the sites and landscapes over time Indigenous land management First explorers Grazing Degreeof resilience/condition Logging Cropping Site 1 Site 2 Site 3 Time Reference state Long term rainfall Long term disturbance e.g. wildfire, cyclones Revegetation Weeds Ferals
  9. 9. What are the effects of severe natural events on vegetation condition? • Wildfire • Dust storm • Cyclone • Others events … Diagnostic attributes of VAST: • Vegetation structure • Species composition • Regenerative capacity VAST-2 criteria and indicators Change & Trends
  10. 10. Photos: CSIRO http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/amazing-bush-recovery-follows-2003-firestorm-20130113-2cnx0.html Brindabella Ranges, ACT Wildfires
  11. 11. Fowlers Gaps, Broken Hill, NSW Photos by Garry Dowling a) & c) Photos by Richard Thackway b) & d) a) b) c) d) 20132009 20132009 Dust storms
  12. 12. Savanna forests and woodlands northern Australia 1996 2015 Photo by Jeremy Russell-Smith Photo by William Thackway Cyclones
  13. 13. What is the effect of human interventions on vegetation condition? • Pest animals • Grazing • Forestry • Infrastructure • Others … Diagnostic attributes of VAST: • Vegetation structure • Species composition • Regenerative capacity VAST-2 criteria and indicators Change & Trends
  14. 14. Photo by Peter Coyne 1740 1906 Phillip Island, South Pacific Photo State Library NSW: JW Beattie Pest animals 1860 already denuded
  15. 15. Phillip Island, South Pacific Photos by Peter Coyne a) b) c) d) 1986 2008 1740 1986 Pest animals
  16. 16. Photo Richard Thackway Kosciuszko National Park Power lines
  17. 17. Photo Richard Thackway Power lines +++Kosciuszko National Park
  18. 18. What are the combined effects of natural events and human interventions on vegetation condition? • Complex systems Diagnostic attributes of VAST: • Vegetation structure • Species composition • Regenerative capacity VAST-2 criteria and indicators Change & Trends
  19. 19. Photos by Richard Thackway Power lines +++Kosciuszko National Park
  20. 20. Grazing +++Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, ACT Photos by Richard Thackway
  21. 21. Understanding the transformation of sites and landscapes over time Indigenous land management First explorers Grazing Degreeof resilience/condition Logging Cropping Site 1 Site 2 Site 3 Time Reference state Long term rainfall Long term disturbance e.g. wildfire, cyclones Revegetation Weeds Ferals
  22. 22. 1925 Occupation Relaxation Anthropogenic change ‘Net benefit’ time 1900 20251950 Reference changeinvegetation indicatororindex 1850 1875 1975 2000 VAST-2 model of transformation of native vegetation VAST classes
  23. 23. Concepts and definitions • Resilience = the capacity of an plant community to recover toward a reference state following a change/s in land management • Change in condition of a plant community (type) is due to effects of land management practices on indicators of: – Vegetation structure – Species composition – Regenerative capacity • Transformation = changes in vegetation condition over time • Condition, resilience and transformation are assessed relative to a fully natural Reference state Vegetation condition (a composite index)
  24. 24. How do land managers modify structure, composition & function (i.e. resilience) over time? LMP that focus on soil LMP that focus on native vegetation Regenerative capacity/ function Vegetation structure & Species composition 1. Soil hydrological status 2. Soil physical status 3. Soil chemical status 4. Soil biological status 5. Fire regime 6. Reproductive potential 7. Overstorey structure 8. Understorey structure 9. Overstorey composition 10. Understorey composition LMP = Land Management Practices Focussing on 10 key criteria
  25. 25. Common interventions designed to influence structure, composition & function i.e. resilience Various interventions: Land management practices (LMP) are used to influence ecological building blocks at sites and landscapes by: • Modifying … • Removing and replacing … • Enhancing … • Restoring … • Maintaining … • Improving … Various purposes: To achieve the desired mix of ecosystem services (space & time)
  26. 26. VAST-2 is an accounting system for assessing the transformation of native vegetation LU = Land Use, LMP = Land Management Practices VAST Diagnostic attributes Time
  27. 27. Every vegetated landscape has been effected by land management practices since European settlement
  28. 28. VAST = Vegetation Assets States and Transitions VIVIVIIIIII0 Native vegetation cover Non-native vegetation cover Increasing modification caused by use and management Transitions = trend Vegetation thresholds Reference for each veg type (NVIS) A framework for assessing modification of native vegetation condition Condition states Residual or unmodified Naturally bare Modified Transformed Replaced - Adventive Replaced - managed Replaced - removed Thackway & Lesslie (2008) Environmental Management, 42, 572-90 Diagnostic attributes of VAST (classes): • Vegetation structure • Species composition • Regenerative capacity Resilience threshold VAST-2 criteria and indicators Change & Trends
  29. 29. Thackway & Lesslie (2008) Environmental Management, 42, 572-90 NB: Input dataset biophysical naturalness reclassified using VAST framework / replaced / unmodified VAST 2009 Veg condition derived by classifying & mapping effects of land management practices Native
  30. 30. Reporting change in condition using Vegetation Types (NVIS/MVG), and vegetation condition (VAST) Source: ABARES 2013 Veg type (NVIS/MVG) NVIS: National Vegetation Information System MVG: Major Vegetation Groups VAST * * bioregion
  31. 31. How does VAST-2 use metrics to assess and report resilience/condition of native vegetation?
  32. 32. 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 effects of land management on criteria (10) and indicators (22) 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 (55%), vegetation structure (27%) and species composition (18%) by adding predefined indicators General process for tracking change over time using the VAST-2 system
  33. 33. Approximate year Source: Year LU & LMP Source: LU & LMP Effects of land use and management on criteria and indicators of vegetation condition Source: Effects 1800 1840 2015 Establish a chronology of data and information of causes and effects /observed & measured responses Pre-contact First contact Current year LU = Land Use, LMP = Land Management Practices NB: Accuracy of each observation and measurement is important
  34. 34. Components (3) Criteria (10) Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference state (22)Regenerativecapacity Fire regime Change in the area /size of fire foot prints Change in the number of fire starts Soil hydrology Change in the soil surface water availability Change in the ground water availability Soil physical state Change in the depth of the A horizon Change in soil structure. Soil nutrient state Nutrient stress – rundown (deficiency) relative to soil fertility Nutrient stress – excess (toxicity) relative to soil fertility Soil biological state Change in the recyclers responsible for maintaining soil porosity and nutrient recycling Change in surface organic matter, soil crusts Reproductive potential Change in the reproductive potential of overstorey structuring species Change in the reproductive potential of understorey structuring species Vegetationstructure Overstorey structure Change in the overstorey top height (mean) of the plant community Change in the overstorey foliage projective cover (mean) of the plant community Change in the overstorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the stand Understorey structure Change in the understorey top height (mean) of the plant community Change in the understorey ground cover (mean) of the plant community Change in the understorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the plant Species Composition Overstorey composition Change in the densities of overstorey species functional groups Change in no.s of indigenous overstorey species relative to the number of exotic species Understorey composition Change in the densities of understorey species functional groups Change in no.s of indigenous understorey species relative to the number of exotic species
  35. 35. 1 3 10 22 Components (3) Vegetation Transformation Score (1) Criteria (10) Vegetation Structure (27%) Overstorey (3) Understorey (3) Species Composition (18%) (2) UnderstoreyOverstorey (2) Regenerative Capacity (55%) Fire (2) Reprod potent (2) Soil Hydrology (2) Biology (2) Nutrients (2) Structure (2) Indicators (22) VAST-2 – benchmark scoring of the effects of use and management of native veg (indicators) over time
  36. 36. Importance of dynamics Assume rainfall is main driver of natural system dynamics • Period 1900 - 2015 • Average seasonal rainfall (summer, autumn, …) • Rainfall anomaly is calculated above and below the mean • Two year running trend line fitted
  37. 37. 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
  38. 38. • Network of collaborators • Ecologists, land managers, academics, research scientists, environmental historians • Inputs • Reference state • Historical record of land use & Land management practices • Historical record of major natural events e.g. droughts, fires, floods, cyclones, modelled average rainfall 1900-2015 • Observed interactions e.g. rabbits, sheep and drought • Observations and quantitative measures of effects of LMP • Include written, oral, artistic, photographic, long-term ecological monitoring sites and remote sensing Resources needed for each site
  39. 39. Assumptions Changes in LU & LMP – result in measurable and predictable changes in structure, floristics & regen capacity – can be consistently and reliably differentiated from natural events – have or can be adequately and reliably documented over time Sequential responses in veg structure, floristics & regen capacity can be discovered, unpacked and scored over time Ratings and weightings are ecologically meaningful Data – information – Decision making i.e. fit for purpose
  40. 40. Case studies VAST-2
  41. 41. Coastal Eucalypt Angophora open forest, Myall Lakes, NSW Phase 1 Phase 2
  42. 42. Salmon gum woodland, Great Western Woodlands, WA
  43. 43. Chenopod shrubland, Koonamore Station, SA Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
  44. 44. year score% Pine – Hardwood Subtropical Rainforest, Phillip Island, Sth Pac Pigs released Uninhabited island Pigs died out Goats, rabbit and fowl released Goats died out Rabbits eradicated Rabbit control commenced Commenced passive & active restoration. Minimal ecological monitoring Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4
  45. 45. Wanaringa Brigalow woodland, Taroom Shire, Qld Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Phase 5 Phase 6
  46. 46. Can the results and the system be used by decision makers and land managers to influence future landscapes?
  47. 47. Transformationscore Years 1800 2012 Reference Futures landscape - strategic regeneration, revegetation & restoration Modified Transformed Replaced/ managed Residual Replaced/ adventive VAST Classes 1850 19501900 2000 2050 2100 Replaced/ removed
  48. 48. Predictions of mature forest (Bunning’s Enquiry 1974) Bridge Hill Ridge- post mining restoration X = 2034 Y = 2054 Z = 2074 X Y Z
  49. 49. Predictions of mature forest (Bunning’s Enquiry 1974) Bridge Hill Ridge- post mining restoration X = 2034 Y = 2054 Z = 2074 X Y Z
  50. 50. Components (3) Criteria (10) Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference state (22)Regenerativecapacity Fire regime Change in the area /size of fire foot prints Change in the number of fire starts Soil hydrology Change in the soil surface water availability Change in the ground water availability Soil physical state Change in the depth of the A horizon Change in soil structure. Soil nutrient state Nutrient stress – rundown (deficiency) relative to soil fertility Nutrient stress – excess (toxicity) relative to soil fertility Soil biological state Change in the recyclers responsible for maintaining soil porosity and nutrient recycling Change in surface organic matter, soil crusts Reproductive potential Change in the reproductive potential of overstorey structuring species Change in the reproductive potential of understorey structuring species Vegetationstructure Overstorey structure Change in the overstorey top height (mean) of the plant community Change in the overstorey foliage projective cover (mean) of the plant community Change in the overstorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the stand Understorey structure Change in the understorey top height (mean) of the plant community Change in the understorey ground cover (mean) of the plant community Change in the understorey structural diversity (i.e. a diversity of age classes) of the plant Species Composition Overstorey composition Change in the densities of overstorey species functional groups Change in no.s of indigenous overstorey species relative to the number of exotic species Understorey composition Change in the densities of understorey species functional groups Change in no.s of indigenous understorey species relative to the number of exotic species
  51. 51. Lessons site vs. landscape 1. Constrain assessments to soil landscape units because this approximates land manager’s interventions 2. Must account for natural dynamics e.g. flood, fire, cyclone 3. Remote sensing is only part of the solution – a) Some measures of remote sensing e.g. greenness of tree crowns may not be directly related to vegetation condition 4. Tracking outcomes of management interventions using remote sensing a) e.g. environmental plantings and environmental watering requires on- ground collection of data to calibrate and validate spatial and multi- temporal imagery b) Only populate criteria and indicators once imagery has been validated
  52. 52. Assessing condition of native vegetation over time the bottom line • Develop a capacity to record and understand – Land management practices – Resultant changes & trends in key veg /ecological attributes i.e. • Structure, composition and function – Ecosystem dynamics – mainly seasonal patterns rainfall & temperature • In short – Regularly tracking the effects management on key veg /ecological attributes and their interactions with ecosystem dynamics • Providing a sound basis for demonstrating acceptable ecosystem operating limits and for sharing learning that is based on adaptive management
  53. 53. Conclusions • Land managers and ecologists contribute essential environmental data and information • There are benefits in using a system to compile and synthesize diverse source and types of information (quantitative and qualitative) • Monitoring site/landscape condition over time, contributes to learning and decision-making by land managers • Systems thinking enables decision-makers to better understand ecosystem transformations: degradation, restoration and regeneration • Telling the resilience story is of interest to the wider community
  54. 54. ‘Telling the transformation story’ Residual/ unmodified Modified Transformed Adventive Replaced and managed Organ Pipes National Park, Vic – ex cropping paddock Pathways of landscape transformation reflect choices and drivers VAST classes McDougall and Morgan (2005)
  55. 55. More info & Acknowledgements More information http://www.vasttransformations.com/ http://portal.tern.org.au/search http://aceas-data.science.uq.edu.au/portal/ 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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