Forest condition assessment and implications for biodiversity
Teresa J. Eyre, Anne L. Kelly, Terri Sutcliffe, Doug Ward, Robert Denham, Dave Jermyn and Melanie Venz
Queensland Department of Natural Resources, 2002
About the report
The assessment of vegetation condition has been the focus of work being conducted by members of the Forest Ecosystem Research and Assessment (FERA) section of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Queensland, in a project entitled Forest condition and inventory in the Brigalow Belt South Bio-geographic region (BBS). The region is approximately 21,600,000 ha in area, half of which is forested and is located in south central Queensland. The region is diverse supporting significant agricultural, logging and grazing industries, all of which utilise or effect the distribution of forests and woodlands within the region. Current information on the effects of different management regimes on the forests and woodlands of the bioregion is largely unavailable and is therefore the impetus for this work. Information on the condition of the forests in terms of productive capacity and conservation status is needed for future planning processes and to ensure sustainable land management practices occur within the forests and woodlands of the bioregion.
The development of this project is a continuation of work from the last 2 years, which has included:
- The development and review of a methodology for the assessment of forest composition and structural variables from Aerial Photographic Interpretation (API).
- The collection and storage, in a Geographic Information System (GIS) of historical disturbance information from regional offices. Information collected includes logging history, grazing leases, wildfire and prescribed burning history coverages.
- The development of a field methodology for the assessment of forest condition, habitat variables and forest structural variables (Eyre et al. 2000).
- The collection of field data in concentrated areas across the bioregion.
- The commencement of literature reviews on:
- forest and woodland fauna species distributions and previous fauna surveys conducted in the BBS
- impacts of forest and woodland disturbances such as logging, fire and grazing upon flora and fauna
- impacts of forest and woodland disturbances such as logging, treatment, fire and grazing upon forest and woodland structure and habitat
- remote sensing methods used to map forest structure and habitat.
- The development of a database for the storage of spatial and aspatial data.
- Investigation of the use of remotely sensed radar imagery for the assessment of forest structural variables.
Environment Australia (EA) in partnership with the National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA) is developing a framework for the assessment of vegetation condition. The framework will focus on measuring vegetation condition as a change variable by focussing on landscape processes such as disturbance, as a component of Theme 3 (Vegetation Cover, Condition and Use) of the NLWRA , the National Vegetation Information System (NVIS).
In order to test the application of the draft framework, to assess its suitability for meeting biodiversity objectives, a range of case studies to assess the framework have been established across Australia. The case study, reported on in this document, will report on biodiversity condition of forest and woodland environments in the BBS bioregion of Queensland, centred on provinces 32 and 33.
While the condition framework provides guidelines for reporting on vegetation condition, case studies such as the work documented in this report aim to address methodological issues such as data selection, data integration, decision rules, measurement error and reporting scales. Application of a developed methodology is therefore fundamental in identifying problems/efficiencies and for understanding the dynamics of natural environments in terms of nationally agreed biodiversity values. The knowledge gained from this and other case studies will be used to promote understanding and provide methods for measuring biodiversity impacts at local and regional scales.
In addition to NVIS, there is a range of other frameworks that refer to or require reporting on the condition of forests and woodlands in Queensland. These include:
- Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council National Framework for management and monitoring Australian vegetation (ANZECC 2000)
- Ecologically Sustainable Development Strategy (Council of Australian Governments 1992); State of the Forests and State of the Environment reporting
- Montreal Process criteria for sustainable forest management in Australia (MIG 1998)
- National Forest Policy Statement (Commonwealth of Australia 1992) Codes of Practice and Comprehensive Regional Assessment for Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management.