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Issue 4 |  December 2018

 A view from the helm


Seasons greetings everyone. Biodiversity information is a key ingredient to so many of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) corporate objectives. The NVIS Branch has been very active in supporting the implementation of the new OEH Corporate strategy and design of the portfolio roadmaps. Our work and the information we manage is a catalyst for better conservation outcomes and effective program delivery. Our updates below reflect how we have been collaborating with the many partners both within OEH and beyond.
 
Jeremy Black | Director Native Vegetation Information Science
Updates

> The new BioNet Vegetation Classification user manual has been published. This brings documentation into line with major system changes released in November 2017. Read more here.

> There have been a number of updates to the BioNet Vegetation Map Data Collection, including the addition of 119 new maps and the creation of 36 new web map services allowing them to be viewed in the SEED map viewer. Two maps have undergone PCT conversion with the addition of three attribute fields: PCTIC, PCTName and PCTPercentCleared. Sydney Metro Area v3.1 and Shoalhaven Biometric v2.1. Read more in the latest Release notes.
Sydney Metro Area v3.1
Did you know?
You can search for vegetation maps that occur on your property or assessment site by using the SEED map viewer. For example, search for maps that contain 'plant community types' (PCTs) by following these simple steps:
  1. Zoom in close to your are of interest
  2. Select the 'I Want To..." "Search for Datasets on Map" tool
  3. Type in "PCT" or other relevant search term in the Search Dataset box
  4. Select "Show Results" to expand the search results, check the metadata records for available resources. If the data can be viewed in the SEED map viewer there will be a prominent "View on Map" button visible.
Collaboration corner
 
In this special series the BioNet team would like to highlight some projects we have been working on in collaboration with other people and organisations. We had the pleasure of speaking with a landholder involved in the East Coast Classification Survey project. We have also included a summary introduction on the Collaborative Species Distribution Modelling Project currently underway.
East Coast Classification Survey

OEH has a major project underway to build a quantitative plant community type classification for the NSW east coast. This project has been working with local councils and landowners to access poorly surveyed vegetation types on private land. These gap filling surveys will help improve the quality of information underpinning state-wide planning and assessment programs. The upper north coast of NSW was identified as a priority region for survey, with a focus on private lands. Collaboration with the network of local government, Local Land Services, Land for Wildlife, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, bush care groups, and most importantly private property owners, was key to the project's success. OEH worked with over 190 private property owners between September 2017 and May 2018 to collect 950 new survey plots. Here we speak with Julie Reid, one of the landholders involved with the project.

Hi Julie, thanks for taking the time to chat. You’re a landowner, land manager and the coordinator of a ‘Bush Connect’ project. Can you tell us a bit about your land and the ‘Bush Connect’ project?

Yes, I live on a 15 hectare property on the NSW north coast, in Lismore council. It’s quite steep land and when I first moved here 40 years ago, the property was really degraded - an old cattle farm with some mature hoop pine and occasional stands of rainforest regrowth. I have owned the property for 40 years and Initially I left the land alone. The land began to regenerate naturally. After many smaller funded projects restored sections of the property I managed to get funding for several larger projects (including ‘Bush Connect’) which enabled fencing and further work to be done. All natural areas have now been restored with some remaining open paddocks earmarked for later planting, the property is now classified as a wildlife refuge and is home to nine threatened species.
 
The ‘Bush Connect’ project started in 2016. It is a six-year project, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust and is about getting communities to apply bush regeneration to restore habitat and enhance and expand wildlife corridors in Lismore council. The project involves four Landcare groups plus ‘Jiggi Landcare’, where my property is located and 3 schools. There are 27 worksites across 15 properties and two nature reserves ‘Bungabbee’ and ‘Mucklewee Mountain’. All up the aim is to restore around 125 hectares of high conservation value land.


What challenges do you face in accessing and using biodiversity data information?

Each of our 27 sites require a site management plan detailing the vegetation communities and dominant flora species. To date I have mainly used BioNet Atlas and ground truthing, though the problem there is that there are very few records from private land. I have added all threatened species I have found on mine and neighbouring land, to the BioNet Atlas as well as species reported to me on other Jiggi project partner properties. The final result gives a false impression that there is a concentration of significant species around my property.
 
The BioNet is a great resource but needs to be used in conjunction with other sources. It is beneficial to be able to get an idea of what species are in an area, but I need to rely heavily on local knowledge plus ground truthing and feedback from the bush regenerators and landowners also. 

When entering koala sightings, it is faster for myself and easier for the community to use the ‘Friends of the Koala’ web site, these records have been sent to OEH for entry on to BioNet. And ideally I'd love to be able to search the database by simply putting in an address. 

Reply from BioNet team: Thanks for your feedback regarding this Julie. We acknowledge that the current process to contribute records to BioNet Atlas can be cumbersome and work is currently underway to develop a new data capture solution. We'll include updates in future newsletters as the project develops.
 
 
What has your involvement been in the East Coast Classification project?

I have been able to assist the project by providing names and contact details of possible survey sites. Land owners were recommended who had properties that were in the survey area and were supportive of the surveys aims. These landowners were keen to have access to the resulting flora lists. Four of these sites were partners in the Bush Connect’ project. Some of the survey sites were difficult to find needing access through a series of country roads and tracks. Most landowners were absent, so I accompanied the botanist to the site. In the end, based on the vegetation type, the East Coast Classification project used four of the Bush Connect sites in addition to two adjoining sites. All six property owners were members or partners of the Jiggi Landcare group.

What do you see as the benefits of the collaborative approach adopted by the East Coast Classification project?

The six sites which were used as part of the East Coast Classification project have given us a much more accurate record of vegetation on that site. Usually the site plans for our projects sites list dominant tree species, however the botanist working on the East Coast Classification project recorded all species.  It has been great to have that level of details for some of our work sites. It has been beneficial to be able to have that extra information available when preparing the site plans for the bush regenerators to undertake weed control work. These plans need to be submitted to the Environmental Trust in the first year.  

Speaking more generally, the collaborative approach is the preferred model to get the necessary funding to undertake restoration work. Having a vast network where we have the support of OEH, Lismore Council and Landcare forming partnerships, networking and getting others inspired on field days, have seen active memberships of Jiggi Landcare almost tripled in the past few years.


How will the East Coast Classification project benefit you?

The flora lists will be used in site plans to guide landowners as to what species they should plant to restore, as close as possible, the vegetation structure of their sites.
 
Julie, any final hopes for the future?

In the near future, it would be great to be able to access a larger map that shows where all of the plots have been surveyed as part of the East Cast Classification Project and to be able to access all of the plot data through BioNet Atlas. There may be plot data on sites that may be relevant to future funded projects. The data for the known sites is readily available, are there other sites?

Longer term though, I’m 68yo, so while I have been committed to writing funding proposals for many years to get various projects off the ground, it is time to step back and let the new generation of committed landowners take over.

For more information on the East Coast Classification project contact Daniel Connolly at Daniel.Connolly@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Species Distribution Modelling Program


A pilot has just kicked off between a number of stakeholders including Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE, ERIN), NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, QLD Government, CSIRO, Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), Biodiversity Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL), Macquarie University, University of New South Wales, Griffith University and Canberra University.

A key objective of the pilot program is to demonstrate ability to establish robust operational quality modelling products to inform the likely presence of threatened species at a location, to guide on ground search effort during environmental assessments. 

The data guiding threatened species at a site is currently managed in BioNet through a costly expert manual process where each threatened species is assigned by to plant community types that best represent likely habitat.  By identifying the plant community types that occur on the site, a list of predicted threatened species can then be generated to guide targeted species surveys.
The aims of the program include:

  • Develop a data driven approach to predicting threatened species occurrence at a site, where data and methods can be improved over time through targeted research and investment.
  • Establish a data value supply chain where investment in threatened species survey and the associated data management pipeline builds knowledge overtime and can be tracked through to assessment tools and environmental outcomes.
  • Ensure open access and re-use of data products (environmental input layers, validated species observation records, and species distribution models) supporting others to explore and innovate

This study will build on the modelling products developed by the Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE) for the Species of National Environmental Significance Database.  The program will evaluate best practice methods to integrate DOEE modelling into BCCVL workflows to create a repeatable production line. Models will then be developed for a number of sample species. The pilot phase is due to be completed by June 2019. 

For more information on the Collaborative Species Distribution Modelling program contact Ron Avery at BioNet@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Copyright © 2018 DPIE BioNet, All rights reserved.
Banner photo: The vulnerable Dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus cyanopterus), photo credit Michael Todd



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