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Inspecting a pitfall trap at Boolcoomatta Reserve. Photo Peter Morris.
Inspecting a pitfall trap at Boolcoomatta Reserve. Photo Peter Morris.

Ecological monitoring

When starting work in a new landscape, information gathered during our initial land assessments and surveys is combined with expert and local knowledge to create a monitoring plan.

We identify the threatened species or groups of species, vegetation communities and note whether ecological systems (such as water absorption into the soil, carbon cycling or pollination) are working well.

We identify threats and develop strategies to reduce them. Monitoring sites are established to track our progress.

Measuring a Dusky Hopping Mouse recorded at Boolcoomatta, SA. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Our Aboriginal Partners identify ecologically and culturally significant sites and provide advice on how they should be managed and by whom.

Working on the land

With a clear plan in place, reserve managers, ecologists and volunteers work together to implement the plan. Continuing to monitor conditions is a key. 

Collecting data

Biodiversity indicators selected by our ecologists give us valuable information about what's happening and, over time, data allows us to monitor changes across the landscape.

These changes show how effective our management work has been and help us understand how the natural systems on each property work.

Match changes to actions

The changes emerging in the landscape will reflect the management actions that have influenced them. We can compare our human ‘outputs’, such as erosion control work, controlled burns, and feral animal and weed management to the ‘outcomes’ we see in the recovery of the land and in the improved health of the species and ecosystems.

As our understanding grows we'll be better able to judge the best actions to take to achieve the desired ecological results.

Storing and analysing data

David Nelson (University of Sydney Research Assistant) downloads data from a weather station on Ethabaka. Photo Kate Cranney.

The data gathered at all sites is stored in a dedicated database, together with information on actions taken across the entire property. Added to this are records of vegetation productivity from satellite data. This remote imagery may also tell us the amount of carbon being stored in these recovering landscapes – an important measure for quantifying our contribution to sequestering carbon and combating climate change.

The database has been designed to collate and manage the data and provide coherent and reliable information in reports and maps. The consistency of the data collection method allows us to compare the changes both within reserves and between reserves.

With time, as we add monitoring sites to our reserves and partnership properties, we'll be able to see changes in the vegetation and bird populations, potentially on a continental scale. 

This will help identify and target the most important sites for future land acquisitions and also help us understand the effects of climate change and its implications for biodiversity across the continent.

Ecologist Ben Parkhurst checks a reptile trap. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Presenting results

It takes several years of monitoring to be able to account for normal environmental fluctuations that result from differences in rainfall and temperature. But outside these natural variations we can see changes resulting from our management work.

On properties that we've monitored for a number of years (see our 5-year reserve scorecards) we've seen improvements in bird diversity and abundance, recovery of degraded ecosystems, improvements in the health of vegetation communities, springs and waterways, recovery of keystone plants and animal species.

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