Transformation of Australia’s vegetated landscapes PDF Print E-mail

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Project overview


The use and management of native vegetation results in characteristic impacts on the extent and condition (fragmentation and modification) of vegetation

structure, species composition and regenerative capacity. Land planners and managers require such information for environmental reporting, land use tradeoffs, and to inform future land use scenarios. Over the last decade considerable progress has been made in developing information systems for compiling regional scale datasets of the current extent and condition of Australia’s vegetation types, relative to a pre-European unmodified state. However, little work has yet been done to collate data and information at a regional level, on the way land use and land management practices have transformed, and continue to transform the extent and condition of Australia’s vegetated landscapes over time. The absence of a consistent approach to report transformations of native vegetation over space and time remains a source of contention, and even conflict, between those involved in conservation and protection and those involved in sustainable land use and management.


A method is being developed for simulating and reporting site-based transformations of Australia’s vegetated landscapes since settlement, based on changes in land use and land management practices. Fundamental to the approach is access to credible published sources of information that describe where, when, and what changes in land use and land management practices were used to manage the vegetation. The sources of this information are multidisciplinary, including land use histories, remote sensing, and several branches of ecological science; landscape, vegetation and restoration. Much of the historic information is qualitative, compared to contemporary information which is mostly quantitative. A key challenge in implementing the method is the information is generally piecemeal, not easily discoverable, poorly organised and to a large extent non-digital. Information about the historical drivers of transformations and their outcomes is held in disparate places, sources and forms.


Standardised systems are being used compile and translate disparate sources of information using national guidelines for classifying land use and land management practices, vegetation type, extent and condition. The impacts of changes in land use and land management practices have on the diagnostic attributes of vegetation condition including regenerative capacity, structure and species composition are being simulated and tested using case studies. Case studies will form the basis of a national repository of data and information products describing transformations of Australia’s vegetated landscapes. (updated February 2011)



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Products and outcomes



Final report


Transformation of Australia's Vegetated Landscapes

FINAL REPORT available for download

Download PDF



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VAST-2 System


The VAST-2 System has been developed as a result of Richard's ACEAS work, and the method is explained in the Manual downloadable here [pdf approx 3.5MB]


To record your site information download the data entry sheets using the links below.


1.  VAST-2 Chronology Datasheet

2.  VAST-2 Scoring Spreadsheet


Any queries about this method please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

When finished, email your completed information to Richard at the email given above.



Thackway, R. (2014). VAST-2 Tracking the Transformation of Vegetated Landscapes, Handbook for
recording site-based effects of land use and land management practices on the condition of native
plant communities, Version 3.0, June 2014. Australian Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis,
Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network. The University of Queensland, Brisbane. pp35.


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Presentations and activities


On the 14 December 2010, Richard presented a seminar on his plans for his sabbatical. The content of this seminar is downloadable here (pdf approx. 1.4MB)



On the 7 March 2011, Richard presented a seminar at the Queensland Herbarium entitled: A model for depicting change and recovery of Australia's vegetation landscape. A copy of this is downloadable here (pdf approx. 1.1MB).



Richard showed his work in a visualisation of the intended on-line interactive delivery at the TERN Symposium on March 30, 2011 in Melbourne. For further details, visit the TERN web site.



On the 19 May 2011, Richard gave a presentation at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Crace, ACT entitled 'A model for depicting change and recovery of Australia's vegetated landscapes. Managing native vegetation–insights from longitudinal site management histories'.



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North American Collaboration


From April 17 - 20 2011 Richard attended a NESCent-hosted Joint Synthesis Center Postdoctoral Symposium in North Carolina as a representative of ACEAS. He joined fellows from NESCent, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Sciences (NIMBioS), the Biodiversity Synthesis Center (BioSynC), IPlant, Statistical and Applied Mathematical Institute (SAMSI), National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and the Canadian Institute for Ecology and Evolution (CIEE supported by the CSEE).


His involvement with the Symposium comprised two roles: one as a sabbatical fellow (equivalent in many respects to a post-doc) and second as a representative of the ACEAS Program Manager.


Perhaps one of the most stimulating sessions for him was a session led by Saran Twombly from the National Science Foundation (NSF), who was interested in gaining an understanding of the effect of the work funded under these Synthesis Centres: how useful the postdocs thought their work was, and how influential they thought it was among their peers and the wider community. Although this was somewhat beyond the earlier postdoctoral scholars, it resulted in a wide-ranging discussion from minutae to the big picture. What is, indeed, the value of the Synthesis Centre in the wider science community, at least through these postdoctoral scholars?


The stand-out features of the Symposium were:

  • the treatment of the postdoctoral scholars by the senior staff from NESCent and NCEAS as professional equals,
  • the balance in the Symposium of aspects of professional development with time allowed for socialising and networking,
  • mentoring of the group by senior staff of NESCent and the NSF, and the
  • excellent food, accommodation and administrative support.



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Transformation of Australia's Vegetated Landscapes FINAL REPORT available for download

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:13