- Evolutionary ecology research
- Australian rain forest community assembly
- Australian rain forest through time
- Ecology of Cumberland Plain Woodland
- Bicentenary Plant Diversity Program
- Biodiversity Adaptation Transect
- Botany of Botany Bay
- Conservation genetics
- DNA studies of Elaeocarpaceae
- Ecology of Isopogon prostratus
- Floristic Lists of NSW
- Habitat fragmentation
- Lomatia (Proteaceae)
- Molecular phylogeny of the Australian Lauraceae
- Promiscuous Lomatia
- Promiscuous Proteaceae
- Native plants of Sydney Harbour NP
- Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamps
- Next Generation Sequencing
- Nickel hyperaccumulation in Stackhousia
- NSW Vegetation Classification & Assessment Project
- Plants of the Newnes Plateau
- Plants, vegetation, landscape, country
- Phylogenetic relationships of Ceratopetalum
- Podocarpus elatus
- Rainforest conifer - Podocarpus elatus
- Speciation in Proteaceae
- Testing speciation models
- Horticultural research
- Plant diversity research
- Plant pathology research
- Herbarium & resources
- Scientific publications
New South Wales Vegetation Classification & Assessment Database Project (NSWVCA)
As of 2010, 585 communities were classified in the database covering the inland NSW Slopes and Plains and the west New England Bioregion.
In March 2011 the NSWVCA database was made web accessible and users can register to use it via the OEH Vegetation Information System (VIS) web page.
About the project
A standard vegetation classification of the 80 million hectare State of New South Wales, Australia is required to assist with environmental assessment and ecosystem management under environmental laws and regulations.
The aim of the NSWVCA project is to classify and assess the threat and protected area status of the native vegetation of NSW (Benson 2006). A brief overview of the vegetation in NSW is provided in the Setting the Scene PDF paper on this website (Benson 1999). Broadly classified vegetation classes and formations are described in the book From Ocean Shores to Desert Dunes by David Keith (2004). Each plant community described in the NSWVCA database cross-references to the broad 'Formation Groups' in the book The Vegetation of Australia by Beadle (1981) and to the 99 Vegetation Classes described in Keith (2004).
Descriptions of each NSWVCA classified plant community are provided on the NSWVCA database bio-information system that is being published as new versions as the project progresses from western to eastern NSW. A copy of a read-only version of the NSWVCA database is provided on a CD/DVD in the back pocket of the journal publications and can be obtained by land mail from NSWVCA, Ecology Section, Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney NSW 2000.
The NSWVCA project mirrors the National Vegetation Classification of the United States (Jennings et al. 2006) that was initiated by The Nature Conservancy (Grossman et al. 1998).
It is anticipated that when all of the vegetation in NSW is classified through the NSWVCA project, between 1400 and 1600 plant communities will be classified, described and assessed. To date, 585 plant communities have been or are in the process of being published covering 11.5 of the 18 IBRA bioregions in NSW. These include all bioregions west of the Great Dividing Range. Work has commenced to classify and describe the plant communities in the South East Highlands and Australian Alps Bioregions in south-eastern NSW.
The NSWVCA mainly relies on published and unpublished vegetation type data to develop a fine thematic level State-wide vegetation 'type' vegetation classification. To date over 530 references have been cited in the plant community descriptions. These references are listed in the NSWVCA Bibliography on the CD/DVDs associated with the publications. The vegetation data assessed includes spatial data (vegetation maps), associated descriptions of map units, floristic classifications derived from cluster or other analysis of floristic plot data, descriptions of vegetation types in reports and papers and expert advice (see flow diagram). Extensive field checking helps validate and compare disparate information. Quantitative analyses based on adequate sampling of environmental variation are favoured where they are available but sound quantitative data are patchy west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW, whereas these data are more abundant on the coast and eastern tablelands. The classification aims to list plant communities at the 'plant association' level that takes into account significant canopy and understorey floristic variation.
Each plant community is recorded in an MS Access database that contains 90 fields of information, 47 Tables and 64 forms. The fields are described in Appendix A in Benson (2006) provided at his web site in the 'Database Description' file. The threat criteria used to assess the risk of each listed plant community are included in Appendix B of Benson (2006) - see the file 'Threat Criteria' on this web site.
The NSWVCA database fields include: lists of characteristic species in three strata, vegetation structure, common name, scientific name, general description, photographs, references that form a basis of the classification or assessment, distribution by bioregions, local government area and other regions, soils and substrate, list of threatening processes, comments on condition, fire regimes if known, a IUCN-like threat code using criteria about remaining extent and condition, a protected area code based on relative extent protected in reserves or secure property agreements.
The NSWVCA database contains different 20 reports for listing plant communities by geographical regions or under broader vegetation classifications. PDF reports contain images while MS Word reports contain text only. The query mode in the full version of the database facilitates a range of queries of combinations of the 90 fields in the database.
Results are being published in refereed papers and placed on this web site to attract use and feedback of the NSWVCA scheme. Major changes to the classification are published on this web site.
The results of this project are pertinent to:
Progress of the NSW Vegetation Classification and Assessment Project (NSWVCA) March 2011
Four papers on the NSWVCA have been published in the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney ecological journal Cunninghamia. PDFs of the NSWVCA papers are attached to this web site broken into sections for downloading (due to the large size of the papers). The actual NSWVCA database cannot be downloaded from this website The CD containing the database and various pdf reports is available by land mail on request to the Ecology Section, Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney . A web version of the VCA database is now available through the DECCW Vegetation Information System web site.
Paper 1 Introduction to the NSWVCA classification and database
Paper 1 (Benson 2006) was published in Cunninghamia Volume 9(3) in June 2006. It summarises vegetation classification and mapping internationally, in Australia and in New South Wales. It describes the NSWVCA’s scope and methods, the NSWVCA database fields and reports, the NSWVCA threat criteria used to assess the threat status of each plant community into IUCN-like threat categories and the protected area threshold rules used to assess the protected area status of each plant community. A number of maps show planning and administrative regions in NSW are included in this publication.
Paper 2 The plant communities of the NSW Western Plains and Version 1 of the NSWVCA database
The second NSWVCA paper (Benson et al. 2006) published in Cunninghamia Volume 9(3) in June 2006, describes 213 plant communities of the NSW Western Plains, a geographical area covering 57% of NSW including the semi-arid and arid regions of the State (see the image of NSW divided into four sections). This section of NSW is defined by eight IBRA Bioregions defined in version 6 of Thackway & Cresswell (1995).being the Murray-Darling Depression, Riverina, Broken Hill Complex, Cobar Peneplain, Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields, Channel Country, Mulga Lands and Darling Riverine Plains Bioregions. The section completely covers the Western and Lower Murray-Darling Catchment Management Authority areas and the western parts of six other CMAs running westwards off the Great Dividing Range.
Full descriptions of the 213 plant communities of the NSW Western Plains are included in a document 640 A4 pages long on the CD accompanying Paper 1 (Benson et al. 2006). Other PDF reports from the database covering CMA areas and bioregions are on the CD accompanying the Cunninghamia 9(3) journal publication. The CD also contains a read only version of the NSWVCA NSW Western Plains database that allows the user to generate reports. The publication can be obtained from the Ecology Section, Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, or by emailing NSWVCA@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au. Note that Version 2 of the NSWVCA database added five extra plant communities to the NSW Western Plains, Version 3 adds two more so there are now 220 plant communities listed for the NSW Western Plains.
Paper 3 Version 2 of the NSWVCA database adding the NSW South-western Slopes Bioregion to the NSW Western Plains
The third NSWVCA paper (Benson 2008) published in Cunninghamia 10(4) in December 2008, classifies and describes the vegetation in the NSW South-western Slopes Bioregion which is a mainly cleared and fragmented farming region covering 10% of NSW. In total, 135 plant communities are described for the NSW SWS Bioregion. 97 of these were additions to Version 1 that partly covered the Lower Slopes sub-region of the NSWSWS Bioregion. The description of the 135 plant communities in the NSW South-western Slopes Bioregion is about 400 A4 pages long and is on the CD as part of the publication. Version 3 includes and extra 11 plant communities in the NSW SW Slopes Bioregion bringing the total for that bioregion to 145 as of 2011.
Paper 4: Version 3 of the NSWVCA database adding the Brigalow Belt South, Nandewar and west-New England Bioregions to the NSW south West Slopes and Western Plains
The fourth NSWVCA paper (Benson et al. 2010) classifies and describes the vegetation in the Brigalow Belt South, Nandewar and west-New England Bioregions covering 9.3 million hectares including all of the NSW North Western Slopes. This covers the sandstone forests near Dubbo, the Pilliga Scrub, Yetman forests, Warrumbungle Range, Mount Kaputar, Liverpool Range, Liverpool Plains, dry rainforest types on the north western slopes, west New England acid volcanic and granite landscapes and some New England Tableland woodlands and tall forests. In total, 315 plant communities are described. 273 of these are additions to Version 2 of the NSWVCA. The description of the 315 plant communities in the NSW South-western Slopes Bioregion is about 920 A4 pages long and is on the DVD as part of the publication.
Threat and protected area status of plant communities in the NSW Western Plains
Threat and protected area status of the plant communities in the NSW South-western Slopes Bioregion
Threat and protected area status of plant communities in the NSW BBS, Nandewar and west-New England Bioregions
Work is continuing on classifying and assessing the vegetation in the western South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps Bioregions covering over 4 million hectares. This should be completed by the mid-end of 2014 and will form the basis for Version 4 of the NSWVCA. It is likely that this will add between 150 and 220 plant communities to the Version 3 classification. This would also result in a complete and consistent vegetation classification of the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Central West CMA areas and all areas west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW (83% of the area of the State). The region includes 150 protected areas some of which are poorly sampled and mapped. The OEH North Region has produced a fine thematic level vegetation classification of the NSW North Coast. The OEH Central Region is near to completing a fine thematic classification of the Sydney Basin Bioregion. The 14 Hunter Councils produced a detailed vegetation classification of the Hunter Valley and a surround region that fills the gap between the North Coast and Sydney regions. The South Coast area has been covered by various works including Tozer et al. (2010). All of these coastal classifications need to be reconciled with each other across boundaries and with the VCA to the west. This could be achieved over a few years including getting the agreed plant community classification into the OEH VIS and Biometric databases so it can be used in day to day environmental assessment.
Development of international Ecosystem Risk Assessment Criteria for the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Six risk assessment criteria are described in the NSWVCA (Benson 2006). These categorise each plant community into one of the IUCN threat categories: Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near threatened or Least Concern. In 2008, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) established a working group to develop risk assessment criteria for applications to the worlds ecosystems with a resolution passed the same year at the 4th IUCN World Conservation Congress. A number of existing risk assessment protocols, including the NSWVCA criteria, were used to develop version 1 of the IUCN risk assessment ecosystem published in Rodriquez et al. (2011). After feedback and reconsideration of this first version, a second version of the IUCN criteria have been compiled (in press) with 20 case studies attached to the paper to illustrate the use of the criteria. IUCN will prepare a booklet containing the criteria and guidelines on how to use the criteria.
The NSWVCA is completed for the NSW Western Plains and the NSW Western Slopes Sections with the west-New England Tableland also covered. Work is continuing on the NSW Tablelands - click on map to view enlargement.
NSWVCA Progress of NSW
NSWVCA Flow Diagram
>> Download Benson (2006)Cunninghamia 9(3): 331-382:
>> Download Benson et al. (2006)Cunninghamia 9(3): 383-451:
>> Download Benson (2008) Cunninghamia 10(4):
>> Download Benson et al. (2010) Cunninghamia 11(4): 457-579:
>> View example of Short Report (ID20 Sandhill Buloke Riverina)
>> View example of Full Report (ID156 Bladder Saltbush stony ranges)
>> View NSWVCA Threat Criteria
>> View DNSWVCA Database Description