SRA Vegetation Pilot Project Level 2 Development of a protocol and pilot study of riverine vegetation in trial valleys - M/BUS/225
MDFRC Client Report
This report outlines the development of a protocol for assessing riverine vegetation condition within the MDB, and its implementation in a pilot study in the Condamine and Ovens River Valleys. The aims of the project were: 1.To develop a detailed protocol for the proposed level 2 assessment pilot study and to provide training for field workers who will carry out site assessments. The protocol will integrate discussion documents developed from two workshops held to develop the study design, field data collection methods and data analyses for the pilot study. 2.To trial and develop the proposed Vegetation Theme assessment methods to ensure that they fulfil the needs of the Sustainable Rivers Audit and are suitable for application across the Murray-Darling Basin. The protocol and training delivered under the above will serve as the guide for field sampling. A detailed protocol was developed which contained the study's aims and objectives, an outline of the study design including site definition and delineation, descriptions of the response variables under study, field sampling methods and data entry sheets (Appendix 1). A three-day training workshop was held to introduce the field assessors to the SRA and the pilot study project, familiarise them with the protocol and train them in its application in the field. Twenty-seven field assessors from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia underwent this training, consisting of ½ day of background information and theory and ½ day introduction to the field protocol followed by two days perfecting field technique at four field sites with varying vegetation communities and terrain in upland to lowland systems. Members of the Project Implementation Team accompanied field assessors on site assessments at two field sites in each valley on the first two days of sampling. Field sampling was implemented in two phases. In the first phase, field assessors sampled a small number of sites using a high degree of within-site replication of quadrats, plots and transects. Data analyses by MDBC staff indicated appropriate reductions to the levels of replication to be applied to the remaining field sites. The second, lower intensity sampling phase commenced after modifications to the field protocol were distributed and field workers were provided with feedback about their performance during Phase 1 (Appendix 2). Phase 2 sampling was completed in June, 2007, with sampling of additional sites in the Macquarie Marshes completed in September. Sixty-two sites were sampled in the Ovens (26 sites) and Condamine (36 sites) River Valleys. Phase 1 data was entered by MDFRC staff and passed on to the MDBC. Phase 2 data was entered by the field teams and passed on to the MDFRC, and hence the MDBC, as it was entered. Data for the Macquarie Marshes sites remain the property of DECC, however they have indicated their willingness for the data to be used in the SRA analyses. This data will be provided to the MDBC by DECC once they receive it from the subcontractor who performed the field work and data entry. Phase 1 data sheets have all been returned to the MDFRC. Less than 30% of Phase 2 data sheets have been returned to the MDFRC as at 21st December. The data sheets currently held by the MDFRC will be sent on to the MDBC immediately; outstanding data sheets will be forwarded on as they arrive at the MDFRC. Anonymous feedback from the field teams regarding project time constraints, site selection, data sheets, data entry, project management, the field protocol and the applicability of the protocol to the Macquarie Marshes is presented at the end of this report.