Vegwatch review 2020

VegwatchThis first review of data from the Vegwatch program has provided the opportunity not only to report and summarise the findings of the monitoring undertaken to date in 33 Vegwatch monitoring plots between 2011 and 2018, but to also investigate the methodology and commonly applied inferences behind change in condition.

The Capital Region Landkeepers Trust and the ACT Environment Grants Program are thanked for supporting and partially funding the preparation of this report.

The Vegwatch program was developed between 2011 and 2013 by the Molonglo Conservation Group (formerly Molonglo Catchment Group, MCG) to support an adaptive management approach to conservation of ecological systems. The Vegwatch program was intended to guide and help people to quantitatively measure changes to vegetation attributes over time, to help identify whether on-ground management activities were achieving the desired outcomes. In addition, the program was developed to provide data that could contribute to a larger dataset in order to guide adaptive management of conservation areas.

The Vegwatch program has been successful in a number of ways:

  1. Its methods are consistent, robust, and compatible with methods common in other programs.
  2. Citizen scientists have shown they are capable of monitoring vegetation and habitat change.
  3. Participants have gained knowledge and understanding of ecological processes occurring in the sites that they are involved in managing.
  4. The data are comparable with data collected by professional ecologists.
  5. Changes in condition due to natural ecological drivers or historical processes have been quantified and identified for all plots and distinguished from changes as a result of other factors, particularly management.
  6. There are possibilities for wider application of the updated Vegwatch. It could be incorporated into other programs, including to provide quantitative monitoring of outcomes of on-ground activities undertaken as a part of grant reporting.
  7. Vegwatch monitoring data may be used as a component of other monitoring programs for identifying changes in condition as a result of particular management interventions.

Weaknesses in the program implementation have been identified:

  1. Some data proved difficult for participants to record accurately; for example, some people found species identification and estimating abundance and cover challenging.
  2. The lack of on-going support to participants has decreased motivation and compromised the quality of some data.
  3. Lack of resources has limited opportunities to communicate the results to volunteers, community, government and other groups, to share the data with other organisations or otherwise promote the program.
  4. While the program was effective in identifying changes to condition indicators in the individual monitored locations, there was limited scope to generalise about the impacts of management interventions on those changes. Possible trends are suggested but need further testing and potentially more replication built into the program or data combined with larger datasets.

Vegwatch review

Vegwatch Monitoring Report 2020—Overview (pdf)

Vegwatch Monitoring Report 2020—Full report (pdf)

Removal of critical rock habitat threatens biodiversity

In a recent article for the Ecological Society of Australia, Dr Damian Michael (Charles Sturt University) explains that:

  • Exposures of bedrock in production landscapes represent a distinct habitat of high conservation significance.
  • Over 200 threatened Australian plants and animals are dependent on rocky environments.
  • A recent resurgence in the broad-scale removal of surface rock from agricultural landscapes will exacerbate biodiversity loss.
  • There is urgent need to map small-scale rock formations, produce detailed species inventories and develop guidelines to prevent the removal of critical rock habitat in production landscapes.

The pink-tailed worm-lizard is dependent on paddock rocks for its habitat. We are managing a $1m project to protect these tiny lizards. This 6-year project, which is jointly funded by Googong Township and the NSW Government Saving Our Species Fund, will support an extensive conservation program. Read more about our project here...

Read more about the removal of critical rock habitat and loss of biodiversity on the website of the Ecological Society of Australia.

aprasia
Aprasia - Dr Damian Michael

CIT class of 2019 reports on health of local TSRs

TSR CIT
CIT students visited TSRs multiple times over a period of months (Photo courtesy Hannah Kapelj)

Environmental science students from the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) have completed baseline survey work and reported back on the health of six local travelling stock reserves (TSRs) as part of an ongoing MCG project to save our threatened woodland birds.

Working with MCG ecologists over Semester 2 of 2019, students gained hands-on experience in flora and fauna surveys as well as health and safety issues ranging from tiger snakes to large livestock.

Some students also elected to undertake additional surveys and reporting on issues including nature trees, heavy metal levels in local dam and creek water, and soils. This work generated some interesting insights especially around which tree species are most likely to develop nesting hollows.

MCG staff were impressed by students’ enthusiasm and professionalism, and hope to stay in touch with students as they move on to jobs and/or university-level study in environmental science.

CIT’s class of 2019 included Michael Archer, Emma Carroll, Tom Dykes, Chris Heazlewood, Jenn Soroka, Andrei Stepunin, Louis Tucker as well as teachers Hannah Kapelj, Patrick Harvey and Emily Stewart-Reed.

For more information about learning opportunities at CIT, see https://cit.edu.au

TSR project kicks off with woodlands walk

TSR walk
Walkers were rewarded with plenty of spring sunshine (Photo by Liz O’Donnell, MCG)

Almost 40 people turned out for a guided tour of local travelling stock reserves (TSRs) on 23 August 2091. Run by expert naturalists including Rainer Rehwinkel and members of Friends of Grasslands, the all-day tour took in Sweeney’s, Duck Flat and Doughboy TSRs.

All three TSRs contain critically endangered ecological communities including snow-gum woodland (“Werriwa Tablelands Cool Temperate Grassy Woodland”) and the more well-known box-gum woodland (“White Box Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland”).

The tour marks the official start of an MCG project to save threatened woodland bird species including the scarlet robin and speckled warbler (project link). The 7-year project will involve weed control, rubbish removal and plantings on a total of six TSRs, well as work with local landholders and schools.

For more photos from the walk, see the Friends of Grasslands newsletter for September/October.