NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) scientists have become part of the first project to provide a consistent national framework for the survey of Australian rangeland biodiversity.
AusPlots-Rangelands covers an immense area, 81 per cent of Australia with 54 bioregions, which is characterised by vast spaces, old soils, weathered features, low erratic rainfall and diverse animal and plant populations.
NSW DPI scientist, Cathy Waters, said the project would play a significant role in the future management of Australia’s remote heart.
“Data gathered by the project will make it easier for land managers to understand the magnitude of change, responses to disturbance and long-term environmental changes, including climate change,” Dr Waters said.
“Measurements from the NSW plots will contribute to national baseline measurements, which will give us a solid foundation from which to make comparisons over time and across Australia’s rangelands.
“In the past, the use of different monitoring methods from state to state have made it difficult to compare results and gain a clear picture of long-term changes.
“Pastoralists in NSW’s Western Division have long contributed data to monitoring programs and with the AusPlots-Rangelands project they will be in a better position to record clear, tangible outcomes.”
Established in May 2010, AusPlots-Rangelands aims to provide consistent infrastructure - plots, data and specimens.
The composition and diversity of vegetation, groundcover and soil characteristics, including soil organic carbon, will be measured in a common framework. A tailored sampling methodology was developed to provide a systematic, repeatable and widely accepted monitoring method for each plot, in each state and territory.
This information will identify which vegetation components are subject to change, provide a basis for comparing management practice and provide a common baseline for assessing change.
Vegetation will be comprehensively identified using herbarium specimens and DNA barcoding.
Dr Waters said during the next 18 months, monitoring would be undertaken at 1000 permanent biodiversity monitoring plots throughout Australia, of which about 100 would be established in western NSW.
The majority of these sites will retain and extend existing survey and monitoring sites and integrate with other historic sites. AusPlots-Rangelands is collaborating with the NSW DPI, Office of Environment and Heritage, Western Catchment Management Authority and the University of Adelaide.