Ground cover monitoring for Australia project

What is the national ground cover monitoring project?

Ground cover information is critical for land management and assessing soil condition in Australia. The Ground Cover Monitoring for Australia project, established in 2009, recognises a need for a national approach and is a collaborative partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), CSIRO, the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network and states and territories. South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) has recently begun field work as part of the project.

The objective of this project is to deliver a nationally agreed, reliable, cost-effective basis for measuring and mapping using satellite imagery to produce regular updates of ground cover conditions across Australia.

What is being done?

The on-ground work involves looking at the amount of vegetation cover compared with bare soil within small areas to make up a detailed big picture. The field data collected is used to confirm satellite imagery of the region and produce detailed cover maps of Australia.

DEWNR and staff in the Natural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara region recently completed field data collection work on nine field sites (six in the Nullarbor and three in Southern Maralinga Tjarutja). This involved taking an individual measurement of the ground surface every metre for 100 metre lengths, three times diagonally for each site. A total of 28 plant species samples were also collected and will be entered into the biological database of South Australia.

The nine sites are now permanently marked with a star picket and aluminium tag stamped with a site identifier. These sites will be used for future reference to help monitor changes in ground cover and structural composition in the event of wild fires that may occur at the site locations.