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Historical land use and vegetation condition      Richard Thackway        Presentation to SEWPAC Canberra                2...
Outline•   Drivers for vegetation condition information•   Concepts and definitions•   Background to VAST framework•   Why...
Drivers for information on changes in                 vegetation condition• NRM policy and program design e.g.   – Impleme...
What is vegetation transformation?• Change over time as a consequence of impacts of land use and  land management practice...
Baseline for assessing change                   First contact with explorersBased on Cannon (1987), ReadersCannon (1987)  ...
Models of ecosystem changeReference                                                                   Settlement Change in...
Models of ecosystem change    Reference                                                      Anthropogenic change         ...
Background to Vegetation Assets States and       Transitions (VAST) frameworkNational spatial data initiatives• National R...
Pre-European vegetationSource: NVIS MVGSEWPAC
Present vegetation – 2007 – snap shotSource: NVIS MVGSEWPAC
Assessing                           Clearedchange using NVIS MVG                   RemnantPre-European - Present      vege...
Present land use – 1992-2009 – snap shots
Tracking changes in land useVery limited valuebecause change isalso gross                                 •   Mainly inten...
Why was VAST developed?• 2001 recognised need to improve discrimination used in NVIS  mapping – either remnant or cleared ...
VAST - A framework for compiling & reporting                   vegetation condition                         Increasing veg...
Vegetation condition – a snapshotThackway & Lesslie (2008)              NB: Input dataset biophysical naturalness reclassi...
Change  using  VASTand NVIS  MVGChange is basedon a gradient ofmodification
VAST and Landscape Alteration Levels                   Intact             Variegated         Fragmented             Relict...
Landscape alteration levels – a snapshot                                                                                  ...
Why VAST-2 was developed?• To implement the ‘T’ (Transition) of the VAST framework   – i.e. track changes in vegetation co...
Primary purpose of VAST-2 –                  monitoring and reporting                                            PROCESS  ...
VAST-2 methodology
Compile historical records at sites for selected             plant communities• Land use• Land management practices• Natur...
General process for tracking changes in                  vegetation condition over time (VAST-2)      Transformation site ...
Condition                      Attribute            Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator refer...
1       VAST-2 – benchmark scoring of the effects of use and                                   management of native veg (i...
Certainty level standards used to compile                     historic recordCertainty      Spatial precision        Tempo...
Reliability levels of attribute information       Granularity of         Sources of        Certainty        information   ...
Case studies VAST-2
Qld, WT Bioregion, Wooroonooran Nature RefugeReference pre-European: Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest                        ...
NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, Rocky Creek DamReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest                       ...
NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, TintenbarReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest                             ...
ACT, SEH Bioregion, Blundells Flat, ex-coupe 424,Reference pre-European: Brown Barrel open forest                         ...
NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 3a, 7a, 7b, 7c Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest             E...
NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 8b, 9a, 9b    Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest               ...
Impact and adoption of this research• Examples of invited case studies (in press):   – 2013 State of the Forests Report (D...
VAST-2 LessonsUseful tool for:•   engaging ecologists, academics, land managers, environmental historians,    educators be...
Next steps• Publish a journal paper (in prep)• Investigate development of an ‘app’ to enable citizen  scientists to more e...
Potential to use VAST-2 system to predict likelyeffects of changing land management at paired sites                       ...
More information• VAST-2 sites plotted using Google earth http://aceas.org.au/portal/• Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for...
Acknowledgements• Ongoing research support of the University of Queensland, Department of  Geography Planning and Environm...
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Historical land use and vegetation condition

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The use and management of native vegetated landscapes results in their transformation. Intensification leads to transforming diverse plant communities into agricultural, plantation forestry and urban land cover types. Extensification can lead to transforming agricultural and plantation forestry cover types into other cover types including native plant communities. Site and landscape interactions include degradation, modification, conversion, fragmentation, restoration, regeneration and increased connectivity. To date there has been no standardized national system for ecologically accounting for the effect of anthropogenic practices on vegetation condition over time. VAST aims to provide a consistent approach to tracking change and trend in the use and management of vegetated landscapes.

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Historical land use and vegetation condition

  1. 1. Historical land use and vegetation condition Richard Thackway Presentation to SEWPAC Canberra 22 January 2013
  2. 2. Outline• Drivers for vegetation condition information• Concepts and definitions• Background to VAST framework• Why VAST-2 was developed• VAST-2 methodology• Case studies• Current applications• Lessons• Next steps
  3. 3. Drivers for information on changes in vegetation condition• NRM policy and program design e.g. – Implementing guidelines for conservation and management of threatened species EPBC ACT – Reporting on the performance of investment e.g. changing LMP to improve landscape connectivity – Assessing land acquisitions for the National Reserve System• 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 – Reporting 5 yearly outcomes Regional Forest Agreements
  4. 4. What is vegetation transformation?• Change over time as a consequence of impacts of land use and land management practices• Change recorded relative to a reference state for a plant community – Structure – Composition Vegetation condition – Regenerative capacity/potential• Change recorded at sites and across regions/landscapes
  5. 5. Baseline for assessing change First contact with explorersBased on Cannon (1987), ReadersCannon (1987) Based on Digest. Plottedusing IBRA regions
  6. 6. Models of ecosystem changeReference Settlement Change in vegetation indicator 0 1000 TimeSource: Adamson and Fox (1982).
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. Background to Vegetation Assets States and Transitions (VAST) frameworkNational spatial data initiatives• National Reserve System (NRS): Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA)• National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA): Vegetation of Australia; – National Vegetation Information System (NVIS); and – Indicators of resource condition (vegetation extent, type & condition)• Major information gaps re the condition of vegetation (spatial & temporal)
  9. 9. Pre-European vegetationSource: NVIS MVGSEWPAC
  10. 10. Present vegetation – 2007 – snap shotSource: NVIS MVGSEWPAC
  11. 11. Assessing Clearedchange using NVIS MVG RemnantPre-European - Present vegetationNaracoorte Coastal Plain (IBRA) Limited value because gross change i.e. 1788-present
  12. 12. Present land use – 1992-2009 – snap shots
  13. 13. Tracking changes in land useVery limited valuebecause change isalso gross • Mainly intensification of agricultural production Source: ABARES 2010 • Some conversion to conservation and minimal use
  14. 14. Why was VAST developed?• 2001 recognised need to improve discrimination used in NVIS mapping – either remnant or cleared (NLWRA & ESCAVI)• 2005 recognised need to develop an indicator for reporting landscape condition of vegetation types (NLWRA & ESCAVI)• Land use change mapping is ‘too blunt an instrument’ to assess the range of impacts on a plant community (NLWRA)• Opportunity to develop and test a framework based on relative impacts of land management on vegetation (NLWRA)
  15. 15. VAST - A framework for compiling & reporting vegetation condition Increasing vegetation modification from unmodified state 0 I II III IV V VI Naturally Residual or Modified Transformed Replaced - Replaced - Replaced - bare unmodified Adventive managed removed Vegetation thresholds Condition states Transitions = trendReference for Native vegetation Non-native vegetationeach veg type(NVIS) cover cover Diagnostic attributes of VAST states: • Vegetation structure • Species composition NVIS • Regenerative capacity Thackway & Lesslie (2008) Environmental Vegetation Assets States and Transitions (VAST) framework Management, 42, 572-90
  16. 16. Vegetation condition – a snapshotThackway & Lesslie (2008) NB: Input dataset biophysical naturalness reclassified usingEnvironmental Management, 42, 572-90 VAST framework
  17. 17. Change using VASTand NVIS MVGChange is basedon a gradient ofmodification
  18. 18. VAST and Landscape Alteration Levels Intact Variegated Fragmented Relictual >90% 60-90% retained 10-60% <10% retained retained Native VAST I Residual Unmodified Highly modified VAST 0 Naturally Bare VAST III Transformed Modified and retained VAST II Modified VAST IV Replaced – Adventive, Destroyed VAST V Replaced – Managed VAST VI RemovedMcIntyre & Hobbs (1999) Thackway & Lesslie (2008)Cons. Biology 13, 1282-92 Environmental Management, 42, 572-90
  19. 19. Landscape alteration levels – a snapshot Continental 2.5k Moving Window Radius 100 Residual* 90 Modified Average Proportion (%) of VAST Condition State Transformed 80 Managed Removed 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Intact Variegated Fragmented Relictual Landscape Alteration Level LALs derived using a 2.5 km Input VAST national 1 kmMutendeudzi and ThackwayBRS 2010
  20. 20. 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• To propose a simple reporting system - show graphical changes in vegetation condition over time
  21. 21. Primary purpose of VAST-2 – monitoring and reporting PROCESS Permanent network of research sites ‘Narrow & deep’ MONITORING e.g. 30 long term monitoring sites e.g. NSW forest ecology Network of paired sites RESOURCE e.g. NSW MERI CONDITION e.g. 300 sites MONITORING Project sites e.g. regional body PERFORMANCE e.g. 3,000 sites MONITORINGSite-based survey plotse.g. state level plant ‘Wide & shallow’ FUNDAMENTAL DATA e.g. 30,000 sitescommunities database
  22. 22. VAST-2 methodology
  23. 23. Compile historical records at sites for selected plant communities• 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
  24. 24. General process for tracking changes in vegetation condition over time (VAST-2) Transformation site 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 Derive the responses of all Derive the reference Evaluate the influence of climate, soilEvaluate the influence of climate, soil and 22 indicators states for 22 indicators and landform for the reference site landform on the historical record Step 3c Step 1c Compile indicator data for 22 Synthesise and evaluate transformation indicators for reference site of plant community using 22 indicators 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 . Validate using Expert Knowledge
  25. 25. Condition Attribute Description of loss or gain relative to pre settlement indicator reference statecomponents groups (22) (3) (10) 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 Regenerative capacity Change in the ground water availability Soil physical Change in the depth of the A horizon state Change in soil structure. Soil nutrient Nutrient stress – rundown (deficiency) relative to soil fertility state Nutrient stress – excess (toxicity) relative to soil fertility Soil biological Change in the recyclers responsible for maintaining soil porosity and nutrient recycling state Change in surface organic matter, soil crusts Reproductive Change in the reproductive potential of overstorey structuring species potential Change in the reproductive potential of understorey structuring species Overstorey Change in the overstorey top height (mean) of the plant community Vegetation structure structure 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 Change in the understorey top height (mean) of the plant community structure 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 Overstorey Change in the densities of overstorey species functional groups Composition composition Species Change in the relative number of overstorey species (richness) of the plant community Understorey Change in the densities of understorey species functional groups composition Change in the relative number of understorey species (richness) of the plant community
  26. 26. 1 VAST-2 – benchmark scoring of the effects of use and management of native veg (indicators) over time 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
  27. 27. Certainty level standards used to compile historic recordCertainty Spatial precision Temporal precision Attribute accuracylevel (Scale) (Year of observation) (Land use, landstandards management practices, effects on condition) HIGH Reliable direct Reliable direct Reliable direct"Definite” quantitative data. quantitative data. quantitative data. Code: 1 Code: 4 Code: 7 MEDIUM Direct (with Direct (with Direct (with"Probable qualifications) or strong qualifications) or strong qualifications) or strong " indirect data. indirect data. indirect data. Code: 2 Code: 5 Code: 8 LOW Limited qualitative and Limited qualitative and Limited qualitative and"Possible" possibly contradictory possibly contradictory possibly contradictory observations. More observations. More observations. More data needed. data needed. data needed. Code: 3 Code: 6 Code: 9
  28. 28. Reliability levels of attribute information Granularity of Sources of Certainty information information levels Coarse Bioregion Low Sub-bioregion Low Land system Medium Fine Land unit Medium Quadrat or pixel High
  29. 29. Case studies VAST-2
  30. 30. Qld, WT Bioregion, Wooroonooran Nature RefugeReference pre-European: Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest VAST classes 31 ha conversion of lantana thickets to rainforest Indigenous Logging Clearing & Start of Weeds & End Weed people conversion to grazing rainforest grazing removal - manage pasture pasture invading pastures Lantana the area
  31. 31. NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, Rocky Creek DamReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest VAST classes 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
  32. 32. NSW, NNC Bioregion, Big Scrub, TintenbarReference pre-European: Complex notophyll vine forest VAST classes 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
  33. 33. ACT, SEH Bioregion, Blundells Flat, ex-coupe 424,Reference pre-European: Brown Barrel open forest VAST classes 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
  34. 34. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 3a, 7a, 7b, 7c Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest 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
  35. 35. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 8b, 9a, 9b Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest 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, Purchased & regrowing area reductionmanage the stocking grazing fences & declared as a forest as a primarily burnarea with cattle fire wood State forest future forest for production recreation
  36. 36. Impact and adoption of this research• Examples of invited case studies (in press): – 2013 State of the Forests Report (DAFF) and – National Accounts (BOM)• Examples of invited 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)
  37. 37. VAST-2 LessonsUseful tool for:• engaging ecologists, academics, land managers, environmental historians, educators because it builds on VAST, which is widely accepted and used• synthesizing information and ‘telling the story’ of vegetation transformation since settlement• reporting ‘telling the story’ progress toward vegetation condition targetsLimited value as a tool for:• assessing multiple benefits in planning future landscapes e.g. carbon sequestration and biodiversity at least cost• assessing impacts of climate change on managed plant communities
  38. 38. Next steps• Publish a journal paper (in prep)• Investigate development of an ‘app’ to enable citizen scientists to more easily compile the historical record: – Land use and management practices – Observed effects of use and management• Promote key elements of the VAST-2 system in NRM citizen science e.g. national Land Observation Partnership Program• Investigate potential for modelling 22 indicators at landscape scale over time
  39. 39. Potential to use VAST-2 system to predict likelyeffects of changing land 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 n time n + Production forestry continues unchanged Change from production forestry to conservation
  40. 40. More information• VAST-2 sites plotted using Google earth http://aceas.org.au/portal/• Digital Object Identifier (DOI) for VAST-2 sites http://portal.tern.org.au/search#!/q=(vegetation%20transformation)/p =1/tab=collection/num=10• VAST-2 Handbook and brochure http://www.vasttransformations.com/
  41. 41. Acknowledgements• Ongoing research support of the University of Queensland, Department of Geography Planning and Environmental Management• 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

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