Article Index

Avon Native Vegetation Map Project

Background

One of the fundamental knowledge gaps identified as part of the Terrestrial Baselining program was the location and composition of vegetation across the Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management Region, (Richardson and Gamblin, 2009) 1. While we have reasonable knowledge of where remnant vegetation is, we have limited knowledge of what is in these patches.

Beard’s 1:250,000 Vegetation Associations and Beard’s and Hopkin’s 1:100,000 System Association mapping 2 has essentially been the only regional native vegetation map coverage available for the WA wheatbelt. At these scales the Beard information is too coarse for adequately informing the kinds of issues encountered by many of the projects that are part of the investment in natural diversity conservation across the Wheatbelt NRM. This scale issue has also been identified as a constraint to vegetation management in the Northern Agricultural NRM Region (DEC, 2008)3.

Project objectives and outputs

The existence of many separate and largely unpublished but potentially finer-scaled vegetation map documents raised the possibility that these sources could in some way help address the gap in finer scaled native vegetation map coverage for the Wheatbelt NRM region. Many of these documents are dispersed and not readily accessible. The Avon Native Vegetation Map Project (ANVMP) aim then has been to collate, digitise and integrate these source maps and link them to a standardised set of vegetation descriptions such that they can be easily and widely accessed, viewed and queried spatially. Fundamental to this aim has been the development of a database for integrating, storing and managing the information. This was the basis for the Avon Vegetation Map Project, with the key outputs being:

  • A spatial catalogue of native vegetation source map documents, providing a single point of enquiry for the Wheatbelt NRM region.
  • A GIS (digitally) based native vegetation spatial (map) layer amalgamating the various sources of existing map data.
  • A set of standardised vegetation attributes linked to the spatial layer.
  • A database enabling the standardised entry, and management of vegetation attribute data linked to the spatial layer.

Project Scope

Although many more native vegetation data sources exist for the Wheatbelt NRM region than are represented in the ANVMP, only those sources containing vegetation maps for which vegetation attribute data was interpreted in terms of polygonal mapped units could be used. Not all sources described vegetation attributes in a consistent way such that they could be standardised according to a common terminology or set of database criteria. In general the many sources of detailed site (point based) data and descriptions did not interpret vegetation information as mapped units. For this reason such detailed site data could not be incorporated into the project data set.

Although vegetation data for over 2000 vegetation descriptions have been standardised for databasing and translation into a common descriptive terminology, it was beyond the scope of the project to reinterpret and reclassify all these descriptions into a unique set of regional vegetation communities for the Wheatbelt NRM region. However data from the ANVMP has contributed to a classification of Wheatbelt eucalypt woodland communities as one of the outputs of pdfBenchmarking Wheatbelt Vegetation (Harvey and Keighery, 2012).1.59 MB

Project area

The Avon Native Vegetation Map Project (ANVMP) area follows that of the Avon River Basin (Geosciences Australia, 1997)5, which is the catchment for the Avon-Mortlock, Yilgarn and Lockhart river systems. The Avon River basin also coincides with the area currently defined as the Wheatbelt NRM region.

Suitable map data sources identified for incorporation into the project spatial layer were selected from within the Avon River Basin area as well as a 50km buffer region around the river basin boundary.

The mapped areas occur almost entirely within the region of greatest habitat fragmentation west of the clearing line. Around 16% of the agricultural zone vegetation remains and this is distributed over 110,000 patches of which ~ 70,000 are 1 hectare or less in size (Richardson et al. 2007)6. It is not surprising then, that the areas represented by many of the source maps similarly reflect these dimensions. 

Map data sources

Over 450 mapped reserves and remnant patches have been digitised for the ANVMP representing an area of around 150,000 ha. Vegetation attributes have been interpreted and standardised from around 40 source documents representing 400 maps. (View the source reference list for the sources represented in the Avon Native Vegetation Map Project.)

Data heterogeneity and attribute standardization

There was some variation in the currency, methods and scale of source mapping. The earliest sources represented a series of extensive wheatbelt surveys carried out in 1978 by Muir and the most recent for the Lake Campion Reserves in 2010 by Rick. Also, there were variations in methods and protocols used to interpret and describe the vegetation surveyed as well as some differences in the way this information was related to the drafted map units.

It was important then, to find some consistent way to take this heterogeneity into account when combining all the sources of mapping and attribute information into a common dataset. The National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) presented a useful framework to help achieve this. NVIS, by way of the Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual (ESCAVI 2003)9, provided a guide to managing vegetation information through establishing consistent rule sets and criteria. This approach enabled standardization of attributes, including a common descriptive terminology for vegetation that provided a basis for comparing vegetation types from a range of data sources using differing methods.

NVIS also provided a data structure template from which to build a database for the systematic entry, management and query of vegetation attribute data as an adjunct to the display and query of the spatial native vegetation layer. [See below for information about the spatial viewer]. For more information about the NVIS system and to view the Australian Vegetation Attribute manual Ver. 6 visit http://www.environment.gov.au/erin/nvis/index.html

References

Richardson, J. and Gamblin, T. (2009) Project and knowledge gaps that restrict regional biodiversity conservation of the ANRMR. Department of Environment and Conservation, Kensington, WA.

Beard’s 1:250,000 Vegetation Associations [can be viewed in the NatureMap website as one of the Biodiversity map layers: “Pre-European Vegetation (ILZ)”]

Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) Native Vegetation management Plan, Northern Agricultural Region. DEC, Geraldton, WA.

Harvey, J.M. and Keighery G.J. (2012) Benchmarking Wheatbelt Vegetation Communities. Classification and Description of Eucalypt Woodlands. Wheatbelt Baselining Project, Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management Region and Department of Environment and Conservation. Perth

Geosciences Australia (2004) Australia's River Basins 1997 National Mapping Division, Geoscience Australia, Canberra.

Richardson, J., Gamblin, T., Glossop, B. and Hogben, J. (2007) A Biodiversity Assessment of the Avon NRM Region. The Department of Environment and Conservation; Perth. 178 pages.

Coates A (1988) 'Vegetation survey of the Wongan Hills'; Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.

Ecoscape (Australia) Pty Ltd, (2004); 'LakeBryde Recovery Catchment Vegetation Survey, Report to CALM' ;Department of Conservation and Land Management,Perth.

Executive Steering Committee for Australian Vegetation Information (ESCAVI) (2003) Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual: National Vegetation Information System, Version 6. Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

ANVMP contributors:

Ben Bayliss - Source map interpretation, spatial data capture (GIS), NVIS vegetation attribute interpretation;
Brett Glossop - Database development and NVIS data structure interpretation for the ANVMP;
Paul Gioia - Naturemap website applications;
Jane Hogben - Source map digitisation, GIS;
Ann Rick - reinterpretation of LakeCampion vegetation mapping to NVIS criteria.
Jeff Richardson - Terrestrial Baseline ND 001 program Coordinating Ecologist.
Tim Gamblin - Terrestrial Baseline ND 001 Technical Officer.

Acknowledgements

The Avon Native Vegetation Map Project was an initiative of the ND001 Baselining program carried out under the Science Applications Program, Science Division within the Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Parks and Wildlife) and funded by Wheatbelt NRM (formerly Avon Catchment Council).

Project metadata statement

View the Avon Native Vegetation Map Project pdfmetadata statement.48.65 KB

Further information

For further information about the Avon Native Vegetation Map Project see the pdfAvon Native Vegetation Map Project Report.9.98 MB

The spatial viewer

NatureMap is a Web based portal to a growing selection of Western Australian Biodiversity data. It provides a widely accessible spatial viewer for a variety of data layers and warehouses many other datasets that may be viewed and accessed depending on the level of access permission.

NatureMap provided the most widely accessible means of viewing the Avon Native Vegetation Map layer as well as custodial security for the underlying attribute dataset. Also there is the capability to use the Avon Vegetation Map features as predefined criteria to spatially “lasso” or identify and view point based species occurrence record information from other spatially overlapping biodiversity data sets.

Although NatureMap represents a dynamic and flexible platform for information dissemination, the Avon Native Vegetation Dataset and spatial layer currently represent a static “snapshot” of selected vegetation information in the Avon Catchment captured up to May 2011.

View the Avon Native Vegetation Map layer in NatureMap