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Measuring success - What to monitor


Core attributes


The Bureau of Rural Sciences has developed a set of core attributes (Bureau of Rural Sciences, 2007) for monitoring revegetation. They suggest that these attributes be recorded for each revegetation project. The attributes are:




o       Date

o       Location and site owner

o       Area

o       Existing landcover


o       Species (name, provenance, growth form)

o       Revegetation objective (biodiversity, timber, land or water conservation)

o       Revegetation method (seeding, tubestock planting, natural regeneration and site preparation methods)

o       Cost (funding source, labour and materials)

o       Threats (climate, ferals, weeds)

o       Use (shelter belt, amenity, woodlot etc)


o       Monitoring frequency

o       Management of site (activities and dates, e.g. weed control)

o       Revegetation (%revegetated, % survival, species diversity)

o       Achievement of objectives (are the objectives being met?)



These attributes can be used to report to funding agencies, project partners or simply used to record success.  A manual is available to support the use of these attributes. It describes in detail how to record each attribute and gives examples and field record sheets (Atyeo & Thackway, 2008).  For detailed site description, including description of mature revegetated plant associations, the Bureau of Rural Sciences has written a manual which will form part of the new edition of the Soil and Land Survey Handbook (McDonald et al., 1990).


The Rainforest CRC also produced a manual and monitoring spreadsheet for rainforest revegetation.


Growth and survival


Growth attributes are sometimes monitored if the revegetation also has a commercial focus (biomass, fodder or timber production) or to give an indication of sequestered carbon or water use. The Tree Measurement Manual for Farm Foresters  gives simple procedures for measuring growth. 


To measure survival in sites where tubestock has been used, you will need to know how many of each species were planted. Monitor for survival at one, three and 10 months after planting. For small plantings, count the number of plants of each species that are surviving, divide it by the number of plants established of that species and multiply by 100 to express as % survival.


% survival = number of remaining plants  x 100

                        number of plants established


For large plantings, you will need to count a sample of the total. You can walk in a fixed line across your site, recording survivors and deaths as you go. You can get % survival by dividing the number of surviving plants by the total number of plants counted, and multiplying by 100.


% survival = number of surviving plants  x 100

                        number of surviving plants + number of dead/missing plants.


Monitoring direct seeding


Monitoring success in direct seeding will usually involve recording the number of germinated plants, the species germinating, and their survival and growth to particular times after planting. How much effort you put into this monitoring will depend on what you want to do with the collected data. If you are monitoring your own work and want to get an idea of whether there is insufficient germination to warrant redoing the direct seeding, then very simple methods can be used. If however, you are comparing different direct seeding treatments or trying to establish a particular species mix, then more detailed monitoring will be required.


A simple method is to mark out small sections of the site (samples) and within these areas record the species names and their relative abundance (common, uncommon, rare) and height (short, medium, tall). A suitable area in a three row seeding would be three rows wide by 1/100 the of the total length (in a three row, 1km site, the sample sites would be 10m long). Monitor at three or four samples: more if the site is highly variable. Each time you monitor, record the date of the observations and any general notes or observations you make about the site (Vivian-Smith et al., 2001).


For more accurate monitoring, you can record the number of germinants of each species per ten metres of row. From this a germination rate across the whole site can be calculated. This requires a good eye to identify seedlings to species level. You can build up a photo library of seedlings of different species to aid in identification.


Undertaking several germination counts over the first year after sowing allows seedling survival to be estimated. For repeated measures like this, several permanent sampling plots should be established. To do this mark out a set length of the direct seeded row with star pickets or posts, and always measure between these posts. A good sampling strategy is to try to measure about 2% of the area sown. Sheets for recording repeated monitoring can be found in (Vivian-Smith et al., 2001).


Photopoint monitoring


One of the simplest ways to keep track of changes in your revegetation site is to use photopoint monitoring. Choose a point from where you can take an indicative photograph of your site. Make sure it can be easily relocated. A paint mark or tag on a fence post, or a white star picket can be used. Take photos at regular intervals from this point to record changes in the site. This will record germination, weed outbreaks, growth and species diversity. It helps to have a recognisable feature in each photo, such as a tree, a line of hills of a building. Try to use the same camera, film and lens each time. Keep your photos in an album with your site records (Vivian-Smith et al., 2001). Several photopoints may be necessary in a large or diverse direct seeding project.




Plant health is not easily measured, as there are often multiple causes and symptoms of poor plant health, including nutrient status, water status, age, insect attack and browsing damage. Usually, a simple measure is used which looks at crown condition as an expression of health. CSIRO Forest Biosciences have developed a six point scale (McLeod et al., in press), where a score of 1 indicates a plant that is nearly dead, to a score of 6 indicating a very healthy tree with no signs of crown damage or stress.


Where insect attack causes significant damage to the leaves of plants, you can record the % of the crown that is affected and the species that are causing the damage. Insects which commonly attack the foliage of plants include: Christmas beetles and chrysomelid beetles, leaf hoppers, autumn gum moth larvae, sawflies and gumleaf skeletonisers.


The Department of Primary Industries in Victoria has developed a field note showing methods of measuring health in eucalypts.


Vegetation condition


Once your revegetation has established it will start to develop a complex structure, providing a range of habitat niches for different species. There are a range of techniques you can use to describe the condition of your vegetation and how it matches to your expected result. For example, you can use condition as a way to measure if your revegetation is approaching the same structure and diversity as nearby remnant vegetation. The publication Assessment of Vegetation Condition (Thackway et al., 2005) summarises the principles and different techniques available for measuring vegetation condition. It includes field assessments and remote sensing methods at a range of scales. 


Monitoring habitat value


While monitoring vegetation condition gives some indication of the habitat value of native vegetation, there are other attributes that should be monitored. Methods such as 'Habitat Hectares', (Victoria) and 'Biodiversity Benefits' (NSW) provide methods to measure biodiversity and give a score to particular sites.


These methods record plant diversity, diversity of age structure, ground cover, presence of logs, rocks, litter and water and proximity to other native vegetation. These measures are used as a surrogate for the actual recording of the presence of wildlife. For example, the presence of lots of rocks on a site gives an indication of its suitability for species (such as Cunningham's skink) that need rocks as habitat.


Monitoring wildlife


If you have the skills and equipment available, you can record the presence and abundance of particular wildlife species. There are specific techniques used for monitoring different types of wildlife. The National Parks Association has produced a Community Biodiversity Survey Manual, which is an excellent guide to methods that community groups and individuals can use to assess the biodiversity value of native vegetation and the wildlife that are present. You can read a review of this manual here


Other useful publications include:

Measuring carbon


While the primary purpose of your revegetation project may be to enhance biodiversity or increase the extent of vegetation for wildlife, it is possible that you will wish to account for the carbon sequestered by your revegetation. Plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to build their structures. Carbon is a  substantial component of the above and below  ground parts of most plants.


To measure carbon, you will need to measure growth and possibly total biomass. There are several tools available to help you.


The simplest method uses an estimation of the carbon in your planting based on a model developed by the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change). The method is very approximate for environmental plantings, but may be suitable for rough estimates. You can download the National Carbon Accounting Toolbox from here. 


The Protocol for Sampling Tree and Stand Biomass provides very detailed methods for measuring the carbon dioxide sequestered by revegetation. Simple methods use an estimate derived from measurements of the tree's diameter at breast height, while detailed methods require all parts of the tree (including roots) to be measured and weighed (dry and wet).



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