DELWP has begun a comprehensive pre-harvest survey program to detect threatened species or species with prescriptions in coupes planned to be harvested in State forests in Gippsland, the Central Highlands and the Hume regions. The program will be supported by threatened species surveys across national parks, conservation areas and reserves in State forests.
The pre-harvest survey program will deliver greater protection for threatened species and improve the quality of data used for planning of timber harvesting operations. Values found through the pre-harvest survey program will trigger management actions or zoning changes as required under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014.
The pre-harvest survey program does not replace the need for VicForests to undertake its own assessment of biodiversity values before harvesting.
Together the pre-harvest surveys and threatened species surveys undertaken across the landscape will build a knowledge bank to inform forest and threatened species management.
The data generated from these survey programs will help us better understand the habitat of threatened species, and where they are located across the landscape, which will improve our ability to model and map the location of threatened species habitat.
This will enable us to improve DELWP’s forest management systems, including forest management plans and regulatory frameworks and ensure the right measures are in place to protect our valuable plants and animals.
The Victorian Government’s pre-harvest surveys program is funded as part of the State Budget 2018-19.
Independent scientific advice ensures the survey design meets rigorous scientific standards. The survey design will be continuously tested and improved throughout the program
Survey outcomes will continue to be made publicly available through this website as survey results become available.
Program update: October 2018
The PHSP has been in operation and surveying since 1 July 2018. In this time surveys have been undertaken in more than 175 coupes.
Given it is not possible to survey every coupe for every value, we focus on the species that have prescriptions in the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014, and the corresponding Management Standards and Procedures for timber harvesting in Victoria’s State forests and Planning Standards for timber harvesting operations in Victoria’s State forests, and other species of conservation significance.
Survey techniques used are based on the published survey standards available at forest-reports. PHSP survey guidelines are near to complete and we will start to publish them on the PHSP webpage from early November.
Using this list of target species, we undertake a desktop assessment of 100% of coupes scheduled for harvesting using spatial data on the timber release plan, Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA) records and habitat distribution models. Using this desktop assessment, we identify habitat distribution likelihood and nearby VBA records of target species to determine the relative likelihood of the presence of threatened species.
Once we have an indication of which target species are likely in a coupe we further prioritise target species and survey technique to ensure that we are maximising the benefit of our survey effort. The following are considered in the survey prioritising process:
- survey technique parameters e.g. time of year
- probability of detection based on statistical analysis of survey results and techniques
- impact of timber harvest on target species based on the DELWP Strategic Management Prospects (SMP) assessment of timber harvesting impacts on threatened species. Further information on SMP can be found at .
- disturbance history including fire history and timber harvesting history to estimate whether modelled habitat is likely to still exist in the coupe, or whether it has been modified by fire or timber harvesting
- seasonal impacts on access and any issues with working conditions such as safety
- cost of survey technique and budget available.
The results of the survey prioritisation are considered together with VicForests’ proposed harvest schedule to develop the PHSP schedule. The survey schedule is dynamic as the harvest schedule regularly changes due to environmental and timber market conditions, contractor availability, and regulatory and zoning changes. We intend to publish the most up to date survey schedule and detailed program design online from the end of November.
As well as surveying, the PHSP team is designing and developing other components of the program, including online reporting and data management. To date, we have been reporting target species results each month. We will begin more detailed reporting fortnightly from the beginning of November 2018 including additional information about the survey design. Surveyors provide detailed data which, following quality assurance checks and assessment, is uploaded to the VBA. Surveyors are not required to provide text reports of survey effort as the use of standardised survey guidelines, data collection templates, and data reporting protocols provides the detailed results required.
In addition, we are testing new ways to streamline loading of PHSP data to the VBA. The VBA is the DELWP public portal for detailed biodiversity record information. The VBA dataset is collated from a wide range of contributors, including the PHSP. The PHSP aims to get all survey data, including location coordinates, uploaded to the VBA as early as possible to ensure the data is available to members of the public, unless the data is specifically protected due to its sensitive nature, for example, species that may be at risk of illegal poaching. By mid-November we expect more detailed pre-harvest data will be made available in the VBA within one to four weeks of survey completion. Visit the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas website
Further to the improvements to reporting above, we are working on a web-mapping interface which will allow you to search and view survey schedules and results. We anticipate this will be available online by April 2019.
Who conducts the surveys?
Surveys are currently being conducted by specialist botanists and fauna experts from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research.
Surveys are also being undertaken by experts from specialist environmental survey companies.
What is the survey program design?
A summary of the survey design can be found here (PDF, 1.5 MB). A more detailed design report will be published shortly. The survey program has been designed in collaboration with scientists at the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research and peer reviewed by scientists from the University of Melbourne. The pre-harvest survey effort and methods have been reviewed and endorsed by an independent expert in survey design, Professor Brendan Wintle, University of Melbourne.
The survey schedules are based on information provided by VicForests on coupe locations and proposed harvest date. We use a wide range of data to determine what will be surveyed where and when. Further details are outlined in the design summary which can be found here. Our ability to publish proposed survey schedules is under development. We expect to be able to provide the survey schedule soon.
What has been surveyed?
Surveying has been undertaken in over 175 coupes. Surveying is now planned and/or being conducted in the area east of the Hume Highway for flora on 71 coupes, and fauna on 245 coupes. In the fauna group, there is a lot of effort going in to surveying for Leadbeaters Possum using both thermal imaging/call playback, and arboreal cameras. Spotlighting and call playback is used to search for Greater gliders, Yellow belly gliders and various owl species. Terrestrial (ground) cameras are being used to search for Potoroos and various other ground dwelling mammals.
Aquatic species, usually surveyed in summer, are best recorded when stream-flows are low and water clarity is high. Due to the lack of rainfall and dry conditions we are already surveying for aquatic species.
Frog surveys are also being planned in East Gippsland and are expected to commence in the next few weeks
Survey results from August to October can be found here (PDF, 468.6 KB).
Survey guidelines have been designed and are now being implemented. Information on survey guidelines will become progressively available at the links below between October and December 2018:
Leadbeaters Possum Arboreal Cameras
Leadbeaters Possum Thermal Imaging
Spotlight and Call Playback
Coupe Habitat and Sign Survey
Small Mammal Elliott Trapping
Aquatic (Fish and Crustaceans)
Survey activity is significantly increasing to take advantage of the spring/summer survey season
A procurement process is being developed to engage specialist survey contractors and to establish a panel of suppliers. Future contractors engaged to conduct flora and fauna surveys will be sourced from this panel. We aim to have this panel established in February 2019.
Work is continuing designing and developing a data management system to streamline survey data collection and reporting and to provide a web-mapping interface.
Survey schedule process design is being updated to ensure surveys are conducted well in advance of harvest schedules. The intent is for pre-harvest surveys to be conducted well in advance of planned machinery operations in coupes to enable survey results to contribute to coupe planning processes.