Article Index

 

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.

 


The biodiversity assessment report

The Biodiversity of the Avon NRM Region report is a collation of existing regional biodiversity data that presents:

  • a suite of summary statistics on the assets, existing programs and threats, and
  • is a record of review of data sets and analyses on these data sets.

The analyses were aimed at developing an understanding of the status and trend of species, communities and ecosystem assets, and threats operative on these assets;

  • programs aimed to improve the status of these assets;
  • identifying other biodiversity assets that are not part of existing programs and/or existing understanding;
  • a preliminary analysis of gaps in knowledge and present programs.

A suite of recommendations on how and where to overcome these gaps resulted. Download the pdfBiodiversity of the Avon NRM Region report6.59 MB for more detail and the full range of topics.

 


Ecosystem prioritisation workshop 

In May 2007 a panel of botanists and ecologists was convened to identify priority ecosystems within the ANRMR for the ND003 program. The following is an excerpt from the pdfEcosystem Prioritisation Workshop report.238.31 KB

Data and Data analysis

Beard's and Hopkins' Vegetation Associations (BHVA) are used as the surrogate for ecosystems for this process. BHVAs are biologically based and are currently mapped.

BHVA data for the ANRMR was clipped from the Western Australia dataset. For the purposes of this prioritisation, those BHVA that were exclusively found beyond the agricultural zone were excluded from this analysis: of the 145 BHVAs, 114 have some or all of their extent within the agricultural area.

Workshop Process and Results

The panel was asked to prioritise the BHVA using the criteria of extent remaining compared to pre-European extent, remnant percentage within the conservation estate as well as their own personal knowledge of the level of concern for each of the BHVA and the vegetation communities they contained.

Using [several criteria] and through discussion the panel scored those of high priority as a 1 to low priority as a 5. The panel also considered variations within BHVAs across their range in regards to biological assemblage and, in some instances (there were five of these) divided up BHVAs into different areas and prioritised these differently.

The prioritisation process identified 41 high priority BHVAs within the ANRMR and these are listed below. See the Appendix of the full report for the full list.

The highest priority BHVA's

The highest priority BHVA's (rank of 1) from the BHVA prioritisation process are listed here in no particular priority order but grouped by soil/landscape position category. The four asterisked BHVAs indicate that only one part of the full geographic range attracts the highest priority. BHVAs ranked of lower priority are available in the full report. Endemic BHVAs are noted in the comments field. 

BHVA #

Beards Description

Rank

Soil/Landscape Position

Comments

1271

Bare areas; claypans

1

Clay

931

Medium woodland; yate

1

Fresh

948

Medium woodland; York gum & river gum

1

Fresh

Endemic

1041

Low woodland; Allocasuarina huegeliana & Jam

1

Granite

Combine 954, 1041 and 3041 and visit to check status. High priority.

3041

Mosaic: Low woodland; Allocasuarina huegeliana & jam around granite rocks

1

Granite

Combine 954, 1041 and 3041 and visit to check status. High priority.

954

Shrublands; thicket, Jam & Allocasuarina huegeliana

1

Granite

Endemic
Combine 954, 1041 and 3041 and visit to check status. High priority.

25

Low woodland; Allocasuarina huegeliana & York gum

1

Granite

Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition

413

Shrublands; Acacia neurophylla & A. species thicket

1

Lat/Sand

Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition. BHVA 413 and 435 may be the same.

37

Shrublands; teatree thicket

1

Saline

41

Shrublands; teatree scrub

1

Saline

356

Succulent steppe with open woodland; eucalypts over saltbush

1

Saline

Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition

392

Shrublands; Melaleuca thyoides thicket

1

Saline

631

Succulent steppe with woodland and thicket; York gum over Melaleuca thyoides & samphire

1

Saline

953

Succulent steppe with thicket; teatree over samphire (m5)

1

Saline

1062

Succulent steppe with open woodland & thicket; york gum over Melaleuca thyoides & samphire

1

Saline

950

Medium woodland; Casuarina obesa

1

Saline

Endemic

951

Succulent steppe with sparse woodland & thicket; york gum & Kondinin blackbutt over teatree thicket & samphire

1

Saline

Endemic

959

Succulent steppe with sparse woodland & thicket; yorrell & Kondinin blackbutt over teatree & samphire

1

Saline

Endemic

966

Succulent steppe with sparse woodland & thicket; salmon gum & morel over teatree & samphire

1

Saline

Endemic

1048

Mosaic: Shrublands; melaleuca patchy scrub / Succulent steppe; samphire

1

Saline

Endemic

1080

Succulent steppe with mallee & thickets; Mallee and Melaleuca uncinata thickets on salt flats

1

Saline

Endemic
Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition

49

Shrublands; mixed heath

1

Sand

An unusual combination, verify what is here

694

Shrublands; scrub-heath on yellow sandplain banksia-xylomelum alliance in the Geraldton Sandplain & Avon-Wheatbelt Regions

1

Sand

1056

Shrublands; thicket, acacia & Allocasuarina campestris

1

Sand

Endemic
Isolated

1147

Shrublands; scrub-heath in the south-east Avon-Wheatbelt Region

1

Sand

Endemic

949

Low woodland; banksia

1*

Sand

Rank 1 for non-coastal; 5 for coastal

352

Medium woodland; York gum

1

Valley Floor

1023

Medium woodland; York gum, wandoo & salmon gum (Eucalyptus salmonophloia)

1

Valley Floor

1053

Shrublands; Melaleuca uncinata thicket with scattered York gum

1

Valley Floor

1200

Mosaic: Medium woodland; salmon gum & morel / Shrublands; mallee scrub Eucalyptus eremophila & black marlock (E. redunca)

1

Valley Floor

145

Mosaic: Medium woodland; York gum & salmon gum / Shrublands; thicket, acacia-casuarina-melaleuca alliance

1

Valley Floor

Endemic
Need to identify what (if any differences are found between these york gum/salmon gum/morel combinations

537

Medium woodland; morel (Eucalyptus longicornis)

1

Valley Floor

Endemic
Need to identify what (if any differences are found between these york gum/salmon gum/morel combinations

945

Mosaic: Medium woodland; salmon gum / Shrublands; mallee scrub, redwood & black marlock

1

Valley Floor

Endemic
Need to identify what (if any differences are found between these york gum/salmon gum/morel combinations

1025

Mosaic: Medium woodland; York gum, salmon gum & morel / Succulent steppe; saltbush & samphire

1

Valley Floor

Endemic
Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition

1049

Medium woodland; wandoo, York gum, salmon gum, morel & gimlet

1

Valley Floor

Endemic

1059

Mosaic: Medium woodland; salmon gum & gimlet / Shrublands; mallee Eucalyptus longicornis & E. sheathiana scrub

1

Valley Floor

Endemic
Small discrete area verify still intact as well as condition

946

Medium woodland; wandoo

1*

Valley Floor

Rank 1 for eastern (E. capillosa areas); 5 for western

7

Medium woodland; York gum (Eucalyptus loxophleba) & wandoo

1*

Valley Floor

1 outlier mid-Avon; 5 western (ignore Western)

142

Medium woodland; York gum & salmon gum

1*

Valley Floor

1 southern occurrence; 5 elsewhere. Need to identify what (if any differences are found between these york gum/salmon gum/morel combinations.

1061

Mosaic: Medium sparse woodland; salmon gum & yorrell / Succulent steppe; saltbush & samphire

1

VF/Saline

Endemic

1079

Mosaic: Medium open woodland; salmon gum & morel / Succulent steppe; saltbush

1

VF/Saline

Endemic

 


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