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Tracking the effects of land use and management on vegetation condition

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'Tracking the effects of land use and management on vegetation condition'. Staff seminar given on 6 March 2013 to NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Goulburn Street, Sydney.

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Tracking the effects of land use and management on vegetation condition

  1. 1. Tracking the effects of land use andmanagement on vegetation condition Richard Thackway Presentation to NSW OEH 6 March 2013
  2. 2. Outline• Concepts and definitions• Background to VAST framework• Why VAST-2 was developed• VAST-2 methodology• Case studies• Lessons• Where to here?• More information
  3. 3. Goals of land managers Intensification Degradation?Values and decisions matrix:• Social• Economic• Environmental
  4. 4. Goals of land managers Extensification RestorationValues and decisions matrix:• Social• Economic• Environmental
  5. 5. Changing ecological function to derive multiple benefits (ecosystem services)Regulation of hydrological regimeGeneration of food and fibreRegulation of climate / microclimateGeneration of raw materialsRecycling of organic matterCreating and regulating habitatsControlling reproduction and dispersal
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. What is condition and transformation?• Changes to a plant community caused by landuse /management – Structure – Composition Vegetation condition – Regenerative capacity• Transformation = changes to vegetation condition over time• Condition and transformation are relative to a reference state
  8. 8. VAST - A framework for compiling & reporting vegetation condition Increasing vegetation modification from unmodified state 0 I II III IV V VI Naturally Unmodified Modified Transformed Replaced - Replaced - Replaced - bare 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
  9. 9. Why VAST-2 was developed?• To implement the ‘T’ (Transition) of the VAST framework – i.e. track changes in vegetation condition over time• To provide a practical tool for understanding and reporting the status of native vegetation over time• To propose a standardised national system for compiling data on cause & effect of management on native plant communities
  10. 10. VAST – a snapshotThackway & Lesslie (2008) NB: Input dataset biophysical naturalness reclassified usingEnvironmental Management, 42, 572-90 VAST framework
  11. 11. Models of ecosystem changeReference Settlement Change in vegetation indicator 0 1000 TimeSource: Adamson and Fox (1982).
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. Aim of VAST-2 Long Long term term disturbance rainfall e.g. wildfire, Reference state Indigenous cyclones land management Site 1 Firstmodification explorers Degree of Grazing Logging Revegetation Site 2 Cropping Site 3 Time VAST classes
  14. 14. VAST-2 System
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. General process for tracking changes VAST-2 system 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 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
  17. 17. Method: VAST-2 Indicators of VAST diagnostic attributesTime LU = Land Use, LMP = Land Management Practices
  18. 18. Method: VAST-2Year Source LU & LMP Source: Reliability Effects of use and land Source Reliability Year and LU & LMP of LMP management practices on Effects of effects reliability sources and structure, composition and spatial spatial and function accuracy accuracy Pre-contact18001840 First contact Current year2013LU = Land Use, LMP = Land Management Practices
  19. 19. Scoring impacts of land management practices• All management practices are directed at e.g. – Vegetation/plants, soil, landform, water, animal, air• Five objectives summarize all vegetation management – Establish and rehabilitate – Improve and maintain growth and condition – Harvest plant products and remove waste and weeds – Monitor health, vitality and condition – No activity or interventions• Combinations of 5 objectives are common (space & time)• Impacts of LMP are scored for each VAST-2 indicator relative to indicator’s reference state for each year
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. Case studies VAST-2
  24. 24. Cumberland State Forest 1941-2012 Red boundary shows main compartments that were cleared as per the 1943 aerial photograph. This area was fully planted out around 1944 as part of the arboretum. Except for regrowth forests: i.e. compartments 8a, 9a, 9b and 10b
  25. 25. 1941
  26. 26. 1943
  27. 27. 1951
  28. 28. 1978
  29. 29. 1982
  30. 30. 1984
  31. 31. 1999
  32. 32. 2011
  33. 33. 2012
  34. 34. On-ground field survey 2012Transect 1Cumberland SF, ex-comp 8b, 9a, 9b.Regrowth forest
  35. 35. On-ground field survey 2012 Transect 2 Cumberland SF, ex-comp 3a, 7a, 7b, 7c. Repurposed arboretum
  36. 36. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 3a, 7a, 7b, 7c Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest VAST 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
  37. 37. NSW, SB Bioregion, Cumberland SF, ex-comp 8b, 9a, 9b Reference pre-European: Sydney Blue Gum High Forest VAST 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, 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
  38. 38. Resources needed to compile and analyse an historical record for each site• Network of collaborators • Ecologists, academics, land managers, environmental historians, educators• Inputs • Reference state • 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
  39. 39. VAST-2 Lessons• Useful tool for:• engaging a wide range of collaborators and stakeholders incl: • 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 targets• Understanding resilience of natural ecosystems
  40. 40. http://portal.tern.org.au/transformation-of-australias-vegetated-landscapes-cumberland-state-forest-recommissioned-regrowth-forest-nsw
  41. 41. http://aceas-data.science.uq.edu.au/portal/
  42. 42. Where to from here?• Scaling-up to landscape levels• More sites• Transfer and adoption
  43. 43. Scaling up to landscape levels Static layers Time series response variables•first contact by European explorers •rainfall anomaly (post 1900)•slope & relief derived from 30m DEM •state-wide & national land tenure•aspect classes derived from 30m DEM •FPC (post 1980s)*•weathering layer •ground cover (post 1980s)*•digital atlas of soils+ •NDVI / EVI (post 1980s)*•pre-European vegetation types (NVIS) •native veg (tree) layers* •state-wide & national land use • sheep DSE • cattle DSE • cropping • urban areas • Plantations • nature conservation reserves • indigenous protected areas •Infrastructure • railways • roads •fire regime (fire area & No. fire starts)*TERN AusCover* •otherTERN Soils+
  44. 44. Landform Pattern and Topographic Position Index. 30 m – DEM SRTM Nass Valley - ACT
  45. 45. Further information• VAST-2 Handbook and brochure http://www.vasttransformations.com/

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