Native Vegetation Mapping Project

fitzroy falls balcony view

Not all native vegetation is the same. There are many different types across the landscape made up of many different native species all growing in response to different soil types, varying rainfall and positions in the landscape. Some vegetation types are common, other are rare and endangered.

Understanding what types of vegetation we have, mapping where it is located and calculating how much is remaining is essential for activities such as land use planning, environmental management, impact assessment and bushfire planning and hazard reduction.

What did the project aim to achieve?

The Native Vegetation Mapping Project occurred between 2015-2017 with a goal of collecting data on native vegetation at a fine scale across the local government area.

The field work involved the collection of data across 545 plots as either full floristics (more detailed) or “rapid” assessments. All species within a plot were identified, and cover and abundance scores obtained. Each plot, or quadrat, was 20m x 20m or 400m2. Surveys effort occurred on both private and public land, and project partners were appreciative to all landholders who provided access to their property. The survey effort was significant providing invaluable data to vegetation mapping science. This was a collaboration between Council’s Environment Levy and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

A draft Plant Community Type (PCT) map was prepared through a sophisticated modelling process which used statistical methods to assign vegetation plot data to PCTs. The project assigned PCTs to all native vegetation and also captured mixed native and exotic vegetation within the mapping product. Towards the end of this phase of the project, the NSW Government put the project on hold due to the commencement of a review into the PCT classification system across Eastern NSW.

The draft product has been a useful tool to plan for programs and projects including the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project, the Bushcare Program and the Private Land Conservation Program, and was used for additional geospatial analyses, such as the calculation of high value Koala Habitat and the development of fragmentation maps across the shire. The fragmentation maps were particularly important in recognizing where the pinch points were in regional biodiversity corridors and to identify potential threats to further fragmentation of these corridors.

Where to from here?

More recently the state government has developed the State Vegetation Type Map (SVTM) for the entire state of NSW. The SVTM incorporates the newly revised Eastern NSW Plant Community Type (PCT) classification system which is built around metrics and statistics relating to species, cover and abundance.

The SVTM includes 1072 Plant Community Types (PCTs) across the state. The SVTM and associated data is to be released by the Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) in early 2022 and be freely accessible to all via the Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data (SEED) online platform.

The further development of the fine-scale Native Vegetation Map for Wingecarribee Shire remains a priority, and it remains a goal of Council to continue to work with DPIE to revisit the fine-scale model that was developed utilizing the much-improved Eastern NSW PCT classification system.

Why is Native Vegetation Mapping Important?

Native vegetation provides us with many values including:

  • Habitat for native plants and animals;
  • Supporting farmers by providing shelter for stock and protecting soil;
  • Providing sustainable timber resources; and
  • Ecosystem services such as clean air and water

The new SVTM will create an integrated native vegetation information resource and support and guide our Green Web Actions and other programs and projects to conserve and enhance important extant native vegetation, threatened species habitat and landscape-scale and local biodiversity corridors.

As more scientifically robust methods are developed for vegetation mapping, this informs decision making at all levels of government.