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Systematic Framework to Assess
Restoration Actions and Outcomes:
measurable success criteria and indicators
Richard Thackw...
Outline
• A framework for assessing changes in condition
• Applications at spatial and temporal scales
• Process for deriv...
VIVIVIIIIII0
Native vegetation
cover
Non-native vegetation
cover
Increasing modification caused by use and management
Tran...
VAST I: Unmodified /residual native
Photographs: Richard Thackway & Ross Peacock
VAST II: Modified native
Photographs: Richard Thackway
VAST III: Transformed native
Photographs: Richard Thackway
VAST IV: Replaced (Adventive )
Photograph: Richard Thackway
VAST V: Replaced (Managed)
Photographs: Richard Thackway
VAST VI: Removed
Photographs: Richard Thackway
1925
Occupation
Relaxation
Anthropogenic
change
Net gain
time
1900 20251950
Reference
changeinvegetation
indicatororindex
...
Accounting for changes in
native veg type, extent and condition
LMP deliberately &/or unintentionally do this by:
• Modify...
Tracking change and trends based assessing
effects of land management regimes
Effects of regimes on criteria
& indicators ...
Components
(3)
Function
Regenerativecapacity
Vegetationstructure
Species
Composition
Components
(3)
Criteria
(10)
Function
Regenerativecapacity
Fire regime
Soil hydrology
Soil physical
state
Soil nutrient
st...
Components
(3)
Criteria
(10)
Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference state
(22)
Functio...
Creating systematic and comprehensive chronology to assess where,
when and how landscapes are transformed relative to a re...
1
3
10
22
Diagnostic
attributes
Vegetation
Transformation
score
Attribute
groups
Vegetation
Structure
(27%)
Overstorey
(3)...
Generate total indices for ‘transformation site’ for each year of the
historical record. Validate using Expert Knowledge
•...
Agro-climatic regions
Peer reviewed sites
Phillip Island
Google earth
Photograph: Peter Coyne
1740
1906
Phillip Island, South Pacific
Photograph: State Library NSW: JW Beattie
By 1860 already ...
1981
2008
Photographs: Peter Coyne
year
score%
Pine – Hardwood Subtropical Rainforest, Phillip Island, Sth Pacific
Pigs
released
Uninhabited
island
Pigs died...
Transformationscore
Years
1800
2016
Reference
Developing scenarios for future landscape
transformation
Modified
Transforme...
Prioritizing land management regimes
over time and space
Intent of regime on criteria &
indicators of function, structure ...
Tracking the transformation of a
mineral sand mined site
Sand mining
path
Bridge Hill
Ridge
Sydney
Newcastle
Smiths Lake
Restoration following mineral sand mining
Topsoil briefly
stockpiled <10 days
Timber harvested
and remaining trees
and vegetation
removed
1974 (0 years old)
Photogr...
Sand sprayed and dried
and re-shaped as a
contoured dune
Sandmining
Dredge
Original
Eucalypt open forest
Dredge
Pond
Smith...
1974-75 (0-6 months old)
Topsoil
spread
over
reshaped
sand
dune
Sorghum
cover
crop
planted
1974 (One month old) 1975 (< 6 ...
2014 (39 years later)
Photographs: Richard Thackway
Function (Regenerative capacity)
Criteria
Criteria
Vegetation structure
Criteria
Species composition
Conclusions
• We now have completed numerous VAST case studies and peer
reviewed the results at multiple scales
• VAST put...
Thank you
Systematic framework to assess restoration actions and outcomes based on measurable success criteria and indicators
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Systematic framework to assess restoration actions and outcomes based on measurable success criteria and indicators

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A unifying framework is presented for tracking the outcomes of intentional and unintentional land management practices on the condition components of plant communities. The framework is based on 22 indicators hierarchically organised into 10 functional, structural and compositional criteria. Changes in the values of criteria and indicators over time track the response of a plant community to land management practices. This involves a twostep process. First develop a systematic and comprehensive site-based chronology of land management practices over time. Second fully integrate relevant data and information on the responses of the plant community into the chronology of practices, actions and interventions. How, and to what degree, the practices effect the indicators is also recorded, including deliberate and/or inadvertent actions and outcomes. Data and information on the outcomes of actions is compiled from various sources including; direct measures of field-based attributes, estimates of attributes derived from expert elicitation, environmental histories, interviews with skilled subject specials and relevant metrics derived from multi-spatial and multi-temporal remote sensing datasets. Provided a competent ecologist has access to key resources, a preliminary assessment can be completed in three days. Indicators are scored separately using a metric 0-1, based on the response of the plant community’s indicator assessed relative to the indicator in the reference state. Indicator scores are aggregated and weighted separately for three components; functional (55%), structural (27%) and compositional (18%). The reference state is assigned 100%. This framework has been widely applied across major climate zones in Australia to track and explain observed decadal spatial and temporal changes in the condition of plant communities including changes due to restoration activities. Examples will be provided in how applications of this framework also provide insights in plant community resilience, possible system trajectories and future management options.

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Systematic framework to assess restoration actions and outcomes based on measurable success criteria and indicators

  1. 1. Systematic Framework to Assess Restoration Actions and Outcomes: measurable success criteria and indicators Richard Thackway and David Freudenberger Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) & the New Zealand Ecological Society (NZES) Joint Conference 19-23 November 2016; Claudelands, Hamilton, NZ
  2. 2. Outline • A framework for assessing changes in condition • Applications at spatial and temporal scales • Process for deriving a systematic / comprehensive chronology – How we got to today • Process for assessing anthropogenic effects on plant communities – Criteria and indicators of function, structure and composition • Relevance to terrestrial plant community types and any land management context
  3. 3. VIVIVIIIIII0 Native vegetation cover Non-native vegetation cover Increasing modification caused by use and management Transitions = trend Vegetation thresholds Reference for each veg type A framework for assessing modification of native vegetation extent and condition Condition states Residual or unmodified Naturally bare Modified Transformed Replaced - Adventive Replaced - managed Replaced - removed Thackway & Lesslie (2008) Diagnostic attributes of VAST (classes): • Vegetation structure • Species composition • Function /Regenerative capacity
  4. 4. VAST I: Unmodified /residual native Photographs: Richard Thackway & Ross Peacock
  5. 5. VAST II: Modified native Photographs: Richard Thackway
  6. 6. VAST III: Transformed native Photographs: Richard Thackway
  7. 7. VAST IV: Replaced (Adventive ) Photograph: Richard Thackway
  8. 8. VAST V: Replaced (Managed) Photographs: Richard Thackway
  9. 9. VAST VI: Removed Photographs: Richard Thackway
  10. 10. 1925 Occupation Relaxation Anthropogenic change Net gain time 1900 20251950 Reference changeinvegetation indicatororindex 1850 1875 1975 2000 Model of ecosystem change (causes & effects) Baseline VASTclasses
  11. 11. Accounting for changes in native veg type, extent and condition LMP deliberately &/or unintentionally do this by: • Modifying • Removing and replacing • Enhancing • Restoring • Maintaining • Improving * * Natural disturbances Function Structure & Composition LMP = land management practices
  12. 12. Tracking change and trends based assessing effects of land management regimes Effects of regimes on criteria & indicators of function, structure and composition Examples No active interventions Biodiversity protection, minimal use Harvest products Biomass, fibre, flowers, fruit and nuts Enhance or improve Rehydrate soils, control invasive species, reestablish a fire regime, seed hays Extirpate or remove Overgrazing, intensive cropping, pasture improvement, removal of fire regime, draining wetlands Reconstruct Revegetate, rehydrate soils, stabilize soil Thackway and Freudenberger (2016)
  13. 13. Components (3) Function Regenerativecapacity Vegetationstructure Species Composition
  14. 14. Components (3) Criteria (10) Function Regenerativecapacity Fire regime Soil hydrology Soil physical state Soil nutrient state Soil biological state Reproductive potential Vegetationstructure Overstorey structure Understorey structure Species Composition Overstorey composition Understorey composition
  15. 15. Components (3) Criteria (10) Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference state (22) Function 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
  16. 16. Creating systematic and comprehensive chronology to assess where, when and how landscapes are transformed relative to a reference LU = Land Use, LMP = Land Management Practices VAST Diagnostic attributes Time
  17. 17. 1 3 10 22 Diagnostic attributes Vegetation Transformation score Attribute groups 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 VAST-2 – benchmark scoring of the effects of use and management of native veg (indicators) over time
  18. 18. 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 (58%), vegetation structure (27%) and species composition (18%) by adding predefined indicators General process for tracking change over time using the VAST-2 system
  19. 19. Agro-climatic regions Peer reviewed sites
  20. 20. Phillip Island Google earth
  21. 21. Photograph: Peter Coyne 1740 1906 Phillip Island, South Pacific Photograph: State Library NSW: JW Beattie By 1860 already denuded Reference Pine – Hardwood Subtropical Rainforest
  22. 22. 1981 2008 Photographs: Peter Coyne
  23. 23. year score% Pine – Hardwood Subtropical Rainforest, Phillip Island, Sth Pacific Pigs released Uninhabited island Pigs died out Goats and rabbits released Goats died out Rabbits eradicated Rabbit control commenced Commenced passive & active restoration. Minimal ecological monitoring
  24. 24. Transformationscore Years 1800 2016 Reference Developing scenarios for future landscape transformation Modified Transformed Replaced/ managed Residual Replaced/ adventive VAST Classes 1850 19501900 2000 2050 2100 Replaced/ removed Baseline Classes can be modelled as extent and condition Extentnative
  25. 25. Prioritizing land management regimes over time and space Intent of regime on criteria & indicators of function, structure and composition Examples No active interventions Biodiversity protection, minimal use Harvest products Biomass, fibre, flowers, fruit and nuts Enhance or improve Rehydrate soils, control invasive species, reestablish a fire regime, seed hays Extirpate or remove Overgrazing, intensive cropping, pasture improvement, removal of fire regime, draining wetlands Reconstruct Revegetate, rehydrate soils, stabilize soil Thackway and Freudenberger (2016)
  26. 26. Tracking the transformation of a mineral sand mined site
  27. 27. Sand mining path Bridge Hill Ridge Sydney Newcastle Smiths Lake Restoration following mineral sand mining
  28. 28. Topsoil briefly stockpiled <10 days Timber harvested and remaining trees and vegetation removed 1974 (0 years old) Photographs: Barry Fox
  29. 29. Sand sprayed and dried and re-shaped as a contoured dune Sandmining Dredge Original Eucalypt open forest Dredge Pond Smiths Lake Dredge Pond 1974 (0 years old) Photographs: Barry Fox
  30. 30. 1974-75 (0-6 months old) Topsoil spread over reshaped sand dune Sorghum cover crop planted 1974 (One month old) 1975 (< 6 months old) Photograph: Barry Fox
  31. 31. 2014 (39 years later) Photographs: Richard Thackway
  32. 32. Function (Regenerative capacity) Criteria
  33. 33. Criteria Vegetation structure
  34. 34. Criteria Species composition
  35. 35. Conclusions • We now have completed numerous VAST case studies and peer reviewed the results at multiple scales • VAST puts rigour into what we mean by the emotive and vague terms like ‘degradation’ and ‘poor condition’ • VAST is proving to be a comprehensive, repeatable, transparent and rapid means of understanding of how we came to today • VAST can then be used to plan and monitor desired futures (ecological restoration) in a comprehensive and rigorous manner • VAST addresses all three components of ecological restoration: soil/landscape function
  36. 36. Thank you

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