UNSW team of ecologists develops “ecological balance sheet” for the Royal National Park

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World leading ecologist Professor Richard Kingsford and a team from the Center for Ecosystem Science are helping the NSW government develop an ecological health monitoring plan for the Royal National Park and the adjacent Garrawarra State Conservation Area and Heathcote National Park as part of NSW Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) “Scorecards” project. You are working with a team of ecologists from the Australian National University (ANU) who are doing the same for Kosciuszko National Park.

Scorecards are designed to improve the health of NSW National Parks by tracking key environmental indicators and using this data to refine management measures.

Biodiversity continues to decline in NSW, even in some national parks – scorecards will enable NPWS to systematically collect and apply the critical information required to design and provide effective park management.

Australia’s national parks make up 9.3 percent of NSW in various desert, alpine and coastal ecosystems. Of the 1000 threatened species in NSW, more than 85 percent are found on national park grounds.

NPWS will develop scorecards at eight locations – almost a third of the park area – that represent the diverse ecosystems across NSW. The first two scorecards will be published online at the end of 2022 for the Kosciuszko and Royal national parks.

Professor Richard Kingsford has worked extensively in the wetlands and rivers of the Murray-Darling and Lake Eyre Basins. Photo: UNSW Sydney.

Prof. Kingsford, Director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at UNSW Science, leads the development of the Royal National Park Scorecard.

He is a conservation ecologist who has worked extensively in NSW and other parts of Australia.

“Tracking and reporting changes in ecosystems is fundamental to our parks and enables effective use of our resources to achieve conservation,” said Prof. Kingsford.

“It’s really important to identify the assets that we need to protect, such as threatened species and iconic species, and then focus on monitoring the threats that affect them as well. In this way executives can really test the effectiveness of their management. “

For the first time ever, scorecards will measure critical environmental data and provide ongoing snapshots of what’s happening to native plants and animals, key ecological processes, and threats to ecological health such as wildlife and weeds.

Key indicators used in scorecards include threats (such as wildlife populations such as deer or foxes), assets (such as changes in the population of species), and changes in the way ecological processes work (such as nutrient cycles, fire regimes, and habitats). Formation). The scorecards will also report on management activity and spending data.

Once NPWS has scientific scorecard data, it can effectively focus park management decisions, resulting in improved conservation outcomes: Park managers can use scorecard metrics when making decisions about resource allocation to the environmental return on investments in our national parks to optimize. For example, if metrics indicate a deterioration in the condition, appropriate management actions are triggered.

Mountain pygmy possum

Endangered species such as the popular mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus) are among the main indicator species monitored in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Alex Pike DPIE

This approach is unique: nowhere in the world is there a comparable system that integrates ecological health indicators and financial data into national park decisions.

“Using science to optimize the ecological health of our parks is critical at this critical time,” said Atticus Fleming, NSW NPWS deputy secretary.

ANU Professor David Lindenmayer AO will lead the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Kosciuszko, the second scorecard that is part of the original project.

The $ 10 million pilot program runs for four years and is supported by a $ 7 million grant from the NSW government through its Environmental Trust and $ 1 million in philanthropic investments.


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