Partnerships and joined-up science
The NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program will use a wide range of expertise both inside and outside of the NSW Government. Research organisations, land managers, community organisations and members, and industry all have valuable experience and expertise to share on how forest management can be improved across tenures in NSW.
The program has now invested over $2.5 million in projects with over 20 partners including leading universities, Aboriginal community groups, consultancies and NSW agencies.
Cross tenure fauna monitoring – connecting managers across state forests and national parks
The Commission is working with land managers and scientists from the Forestry Corporation of NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Primary Industries Forest Science Unit and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to pilot an approach to monitor fauna across state forests and national parks. The work has started in the north-east coastal forests. The pilot includes:
- developing a method to ensure a consistent approach across tenures
- setting up a total of eight new fauna monitoring sites within state forests
- adding to the existing camera monitoring sites at seven WildCount sites within the national parks estate
- establishing four sub-plots at each of the monitoring sites, including one site in a riparian zone, one on-track site and two forest sites (a total of 32 sub-plots in state forests and 28 in national parks)
- combining a number of remote survey techniques at each of the sub-plots including (i) an ultrasonic detector to capture bat calls (ii) a call recorder to capture bird and nocturnal mammal, owl and frog calls (iii) an infrared motion-activated camera to capture ground dwelling mammals and reptiles.
The program will resample sites in spring 2021, and scale-up the approach in southern coastal forests in the same period. The pilot will be evaluated ‘on-the-go’ to ensure methods and data management systems are continually approved. A formal evaluation will occur at the end of the pilot to explore insights and lessons learnt. This will inform decision making to expand the program more broadly across tenures in other NSW forests.
Pilot data will be analysed in late 2021-early 2022 to inform and finalise the fauna monitoring program design. The full FMIP fauna monitoring program will be rolled out across the state in 2022.
This work links to fauna occupancy modelling funded under the program.
Citizen science – connecting with community
- Final Citizen Science Strategy (October 2020)
The NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee has established a citizen science strategy to harness the power of the citizen science community to inform ecologically sustainable forest management.
The committee is seeking to connect the citizen scientist community to the program by:
- using existing citizen science data for evaluation and analysis
- scaling-up existing or investing in new citizen science projects
- strengthening participation in evidence-based decision making.
Working with the Australian Citizen Science Association
The program partnered with the Australian Citizen Science Association to help connect with the citizen scientist community. The program's citizen science strategy, developed with the Australian Citizen Science Association, sets out the objectives and actions for the program. The Australian Citizen Science Association will help implement the strategy.
Connecting community and science with FrogID
The program is working with the Australian Museum to establish a network of citizen science frog monitoring sites in State Forests, National Parks and Council-managed reserves in the Coffs Harbour region. In partnership with FrogID, the program will be connecting government agencies, researchers and citizen science groups.
FrogID is a citizen science project led by the Australian Museum. It uses smartphones to record frog calls, which are verified by a team of trained staff. FrogID currently has over 14,200 users nationally.
In an effort to assist with data collection and address data gaps for the program, signs will be installed at priority monitoring locations on public land in the Coffs Harbour region. The signs will detail how the public can collect frog data which will inform the scientific evidence base for decision-making and management to support better outcomes for frogs in their local area. Where signage is not possible, community events will promote the use of the FrogID app at the monitoring sites.
This project will also increase the impact of the FrogID program with other citizen science groups in the region, promoting the use of the app for all frog recordings. It can be expanded to other areas of the state where monitoring sites for key forest-dependent frogs are needed.
Forest-Eye: Scaling up the impact of citizen science
The Forest-Eye citizen science project will be the eyes and ears of the forest, collecting data on a range of biodiversity information to feed into the scientific evidence base for decision-making, reporting and management to improve biodiversity outcomes.
The program will pilot a project on the south coast of NSW in partnership with the Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, a citizen science group that collects biodiversity information in the region. The Atlas of Life aims to work with the scientific community and encourage scientists and naturalists to share their knowledge with the community.
Building from this foundation, the program will work with local citizen scientists to extend the fauna monitoring pilot into areas of Council-managed reserves and Crown Land on the south coast. A fauna monitoring protocol developed under the program will be rolled out by volunteers during the pilot with the assistance of the Commission and Australian Citizen Science Association, as a first step to develop long-term monitoring locations.
Forest-Eye: Engaging citizen scientists for data analysis
Forest-Eye: Cunnawarra National Park
Forest-Eye is part of the NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program (FMIP), which will improve the evidence-base for decision-making across tenures. The Forest-Eye project will be the eyes and ears of the forest, collecting data on a range of biodiversity information to feed into the scientific evidence base for decision-making, reporting and management to improve biodiversity outcomes.
Forest-Eye uses remote technologies including motion-activated cameras (for ground-dwelling animals like bandicoots and kangaroos), acoustic call recorders (for owls, birds and gliders) and ultrasonic recorders (for microbat species). Teaming up with the National Parks and Wildlife Services WildCount program, Forest-Eye collected data as part of a pilot program in north-eastern NSW for this citizen science project.
We partnered with the Australian Citizen Science Association and the Minderoo Wildfire and Disaster Resilience initiative to engage citizen scientists to identify fauna species on images collected during the autumn pilot surveys. This project is one of several projects funded by Minderoo to boost citizen science’s contribution to the nation’s bushfire recovery and response. Citizen scientists will be able to access the images for tagging on the Australian Museum’s DigiVol platform from the comfort of home, where Forest-Eye expeditions will assist in providing important species detection data to inform the FMIP.
Regional Forest Agreements – coordinating monitoring and evaluation across RFA regions
Under the NSW Regional Forest Agreements, the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee has delivered the nation’s first plan to monitor NSW’s Regional Forest Agreements. The plan sets out priority actions, and roles and responsibilities to monitor, evaluate and report on the outcomes sought across all tenures in the three NSW Regional Forest Agreements.
This initial plan sets out the vast array of existing forest monitoring and research already undertaken across NSW RFA regions. It is a first step as NSW continues to join up science across government, and sharpen investment on priority monitoring to deliver outcomes and timely information for decision making.
Monitoring forestry on state forests – agencies designing together
Under the terms of reference for the program and the NSW Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval, the NSW Forest Monitoring Steering Committee independently chaired by the Commission is tasked to design and implement monitoring for the Approval.
An approved monitoring program is now in place, including detailed monitoring plans. The monitoring plans were developed, with oversight by the Steering Committee, by cross-agency design teams including technical experts from the NSW Environment Protection Authority, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Forestry Corporation of NSW and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
More information on the program can be found here.
Remote sensed forest plot network – connecting science across government
The program has committed to design a state-wide cross tenure remote sensed forest monitoring plot network. The intent is to roll out the network initially in Regional Forest Agreement regions by end-2022.
Effectively monitoring the condition and health of 20 million hectares of forests in NSW presents an enormous challenge to monitor and forecast their current and future health. NSW has many existing forest monitoring programs. Opportunities exist to realise greater synergies and efficiencies by building on existing scientific knowledge and programs to coordinate a ‘joined-up’ science approach across NSW agencies.
The Commission is now working with agencies to pilot test proof-of-concepts, for example the scalability and robustness of the overall statistical design, the cross-tenure stratification for the collection of ground-based plots and repurposing existing permanent forest plots. Importantly, the approach needs to demonstrate the ability to join-up science across broader monitoring and reporting programs across government, such as the Biodiversity Indicator Program and the Biodiversity Conservation Trust control plot network.