Classifying and mapping different types of vegetation is critical for planning improved native vegetation management. It facilitates priority setting for investment and provides a basis for monitoring the effects of interventions.
- Projects to improve maps and data describes major national and state projects aimed at improving vegetation maps and data
- Resources maps and data describes major online vegetation maps and data resources
Eucalypt open forests
Photo: D. James and DEWHA
State and territory governments and a range of research and non-government bodies have ongoing programs for assessing, classifying and mapping native vegetation. All use a combination of data collected in the field at survey sites and by remote sensing (e.g. aerial photography and satellite imagery). The data collected at survey sites generally includes floristic (e.g. dominant species), structural (e.g. closed forest, open woodland) and growth form (e.g. mallee, grass, tall tree etc.) attributes.
Limitations of mapping
At a more detailed level, the methods used to classify and map native vegetation vary considerably across Australia. This creates significant challenges in drawing together a reliable national view of native vegetation.
A vegetation map is an interpretation or representation of reality at one point in time. The map makers have interpreted what they see in the landscape and have drawn lines on a page that — in their view — make a sensible representation of the variety of shapes and forms that they see. While standardised classifications, high-resolution imagery and consistent site survey data help to reduce vegetation mapping variations, users should be mindful of limitations. Vegetation changes over time. What was there at the time of mapping might be different to what is there now.
Development of the National Vegetation Information System
The NVIS has been developed and is maintained by all Australian governments to provide a national picture that captures and explains the broad diversity of our native vegetation. It compiles vegetation data from state and territory governments and the Australian Government into a national database, which is supported by a framework of standards for data collection and collation.
While many thousands of finer-level vegetation types have been drawn together into the NVIS database, they need to be combined into broader groups to make useful maps. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts has defined 23 major vegetation groups (MVGs) within the NVIS database to enable a national view of native vegetation.
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Photo: C. Slatyer