Notification: Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

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The aims of the terrestrial component of the project were to collate information about the known biodiversity assets within the region and their threats; to database and analyse available data in order to identify gaps in knowledge and existing programs; to make data available through an interactive web-site; and to fill identified gaps through engagement with other projects within the Natural Diversity Program and through field work by the group.

There were four main parts to this project:

1. A biodiversity assessment of the Wheatbelt (ex Avon) NRM region. This is a document that collates and summarises all the known values and threats to biodiversity across the Wheatbelt NRM region. This document presents summary statistics on the condition and trend of regional species, communities and ecosystems. This data was accessed from numerous sources including the Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Parks and Wildlife), the Western Australian Museum, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Agriculture and Food as well as the literature. This document also identifies preliminary results of analyses looking at the extent of threats, including salinity risk, across each of the above asset classes.

2. An analysis of the above data to identify gaps in knowledge and programs. This analysis examined those species and communities already known to be rare and threatened and also identified, either from the literature or from threat analyses, assets that may be considered of-concern. This process also directed the need for projects outlined in projects 1 and 2 below.

3. The development and operation of a field program to fill some of the above knowledge gaps in order to guide future Baselining activities. This may take the form of surveys for rare, threatened and of-concern flora, or it could be an extension of a mapping program for communities.

4. The informing of other groups, within the Natural Diversity theme and elsewhere, of the above data. Generally, this took three main forms. Firstly, the biodiversity assessment outlined the values and the threats to these values as well as, where possible, the status and trend of these values. Secondly, within the Terrestrial Baselining project, this website was implemented to provide reports, selected datasets and other key documents as they become available. Finally, factsheets, selected spatial data and databases have been made available through NatureMap.

 

The gap analysis (part 2) identified foundational knowledge gaps in the Natural Diversity Theme and discussed their prioritisation. Three areas were identified: a lack of knowledge of the location and extent of vegetation communities, the need to benchmark the vegetation communities across the region and a lack of knowledge about vegetation communities growing on gypsum dunes and possibly threatened by mining. Resolving these gaps was the focus of the following projects:

1.   Avon Native Vegetation Map Project (ANVMP): the creation of a single standardised spatial reference resource amalgamating the various existing maps that capture native vegetation at a scale finer than the current 1:250,000 regional vegetation mapping (Beard) available for the Avon Wheatbelt.

Over 400 vegetation maps from more than 40 largely unpublished source documents have been compiled. These maps have been digitised as a set of polygon features into a Geographic Information System (GIS) to create a single digital map layer linked to a database of native vegetation attributes for the Wheatbelt NRM region. Vegetation attributes derived from the various reports documenting the source maps have been standardised using the National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual  and entered into the Avon Native Vegetation Map database.

2.   Benchmarking Wheatbelt Vegetation: the development of a mainly structural and floristic classification of eucalypt woodlands based on site and polygon data and descriptions, results of two statistical analyses, consultation with experts and photographic interpretation. For full details about the data used, the classification process and the relationship between this classification and those of others see the full report:  pdfHarvey, J.M. and Keighery G.J. (2012) Benchmarking Wheatbelt Vegetation. Classification and Description of Eucalypt Woodlands. Wheatbelt Baselining Project. Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management Region and Department of Environment and Conservation. Perth. 1.59 MB

Classification of vegetation is necessary to provide a framework for benchmarking vegetation, vegetation mapping, land management and restoration activities and to assist with landholder engagement in understanding conservation values. Benchmarking involves describing the near pristine state of a defined community in terms of species composition, species richness, structure and habitat value.

Twenty-nine eucalypt tree species were considered in the classification, resulting in descriptions of 28 communities, 62 sub-communities, 63 reference sites and 18 benchmark conditions (mallets treated as one group). (See the NatureMap Baselining Project theme page for more detailed information.)

3.   Botanical consultant Anne Rick from Newdegate analysed and reported results from a survey of 118 existing sites and 26 extra sites she established in 2009. These sites were confined to plant communities growing on gypsiferous soils associated with inland salt lakes or playas mainly situated within the Wheatbelt NRM region. Only 10 of the 449 species recorded are proposed as possible gypsophiles (plants substantially confined to gypsum rich soil). Five Declared Rare Flora and 25 Priority Flora were recorded on gypsiferous soils in the study area. The report also covers gypsum deposits in WA, Australian and overseas research on gypsophilous plant species, the possible environmental impacts of gypsum mining and the conservation significance of gypsum plant communities. For the full report see pdfRick, A. (2011) Survey and Analysis Of Plant Communities Growing On Gypsum In The WA Wheatbelt. A report for the Wheatbelt NRM region and the Department of Environment and Conservation. Newdegate, WA993.28 KB and pdfAppendices3.18 MB.

One requirement of the Baselining Project was to develop an inventory of information on the current status and trend of existing biodiversity conservation projects and threatening processes.

Specifically, the biodiversity assessment aimed to:

  • Identify relevant datasets, their provenance and custodian.
  • Collate the existing conservation programs, threats to biodiversity, biodiversity assets of the ANRMR.
  • Identify shortcomings within the existing data.
  • Develop a suite of summary statistics of the above information for dialogues with funding providers and stakeholders.

These outputs were used to:

  • Aid in the prioritisation of programs.
  • Develop new or modify existing programs designed around an analysis of gaps in knowledge and exiting programs.