Threatened ecological communities mapping

Threatened ecological communities (TECs) are rare groups of plants, animals and other organisms interacting in a unique habitat. The EPA has completed a 3-year TEC mapping project to improve the recognition, management and regulation of TECs in native forestry areas in NSW.

A TEC is the collective term for ecological communities – a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms that

  • interact in a unique habitat
  • are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act)

There are 104 TECs listed under the TSC Act.

An ecological community is considered threatened if there is a significant decline in its distribution or ecological function. This could include

  • a change in community structure or composition due to, for example, a species becoming extinct
  • disruption of ecological processes as a result of disturbance
  • invasion by exotic species such as weeds and feral animals
  • habitat degradation or fragmentation due to, for example, clearing for development

While some of the individual plants comprising a TEC may be common, their occurrence together in a specific community, or place in the landscape, leads to them being listed as a TEC. Many TECs are listed because they were once widespread but are now more limited due to urban and agricultural development. Other TECs are naturally rare.

TECs are important because of their unique combination of native biodiversity and vital habitat qualities, and for the ecosystem services they provide. Ecological communities

  • provide natural management of clean air and water
  • provide nutrients for the soil, protection against erosion and salinity, and a healthy environment for the group’s species
  • contribute to the tourism and recreation industries and the productivity of farmlands and fisheries
  • have strong cultural significance for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

TECs are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and any harm to TECs is prohibited during all forestry operations in NSW. The current Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) do not authorise any harm to TECs. FCNSW are required to manage forestry operations to ensure that TECs are not harmed.

In private native forestry, the Private Native Forestry Code of Practice prohibits logging in, or disturbance of, TECs.

The TEC mapping project was initiated by the EPA in consultation with FCNSW.

The project aimed to

  • identify TECs most likely to be present in harvest areas and impacted on by forestry activities in state forests
  • develop an agreed interpretation and methodology to identify, classify and map TECs in a defined study area

The project assessed 18 TECs across a coastal study area of 1.4 million hectares using

  • extensive field surveys
  • rigorous quantitative data analysis
  • high resolution aerial photograph interpretation

For 13 TECs, high resolution operational maps were produced that describe their distribution in the state forest study area

For 3 TECs, indicative maps were produced from statistical models that predicted their distributions

Following a thorough assessment, a further 3 TECs were confirmed absent from the study area.

The TEC maps can be viewed online.For instructions on how to use the map viewer, see the Native Forestry Map Viewer Guide (PDF 672KB).

To download the spatial datasets, please visit the open data portal and search using the keyword `TEC'.

covering report (PDF 1.3MB) and detailed technical reports for each TEC have been prepared to describe the assessment process, decision pathways and project findings.

TEC

Operational map

Indicative map

Key

Area (Ha)

Lowland rainforest (PDF 8.8MB)

Y

 

N

14,036

Subtropical coastal floodplain forest (PDF 9.9MB)

Y

 

Y

11,050

Riverflat eucalypt forest on floodplains (south) and (north) (PDF 6.3MB)

Y

 

Y (sth)

4017

Grey box - grey gum wet sclerophyll forest (PDF 5.4MB)

Y

Y

Y

2936

Montane peatlands and swamps (PDF 3.5MB)

Y

 

N

1792

Lowland grassy woodland (PDF 5.8MB)

N

Y

Y

1535

Swamp sclerophyll forest on coastal floodplains (south and north) (PDF 4.1MB)

 

 

Y (sth)

1131

White gum moist forest (PDF 5.3MB)

N

Y

Y

980

Tablelands snow gum, black sallee, candlebark and ribbon gum grassy woodland (PDF 4.1MB)

Y

 

Y

902

Lowland rainforest on floodplain (PDF 8.8MB)

Y

 

N

683

Swamp oak floodplain forest (south and north) (PDF 4MB)

Y

 

Y (sth)

284

McKies stringybark /blackbutt open forest (PDF 2.9MB)

Y

 

N

201

Coastal saltmarsh on floodplains (PDF 3.6MB)

Y

 

N

99

Brogo wet vine forest (PDF 5.8MB)

Y

 

N

17

Dry rainforest of the south east forests (PDF 5.8MB)

Y

 

N

0.5

Bangalay sand forest (PDF 2.9MB)

absent

 

N

0

Littoral rainforest (PDF 8.8MB)

absent (Nth)

 

N

0

Milton Ulladulla subtropical rainforest (PDF 8.8MB)

absent

 

N

0

1 confirmed absent from northern study area, southern rainforest mapping underway in southern study area
2 Grey box - grey gum wet sclerophyll forest TEC is mapped as indicative for a small part of its range

The TEC mapping project was funded by a Waste and Environment Levy Envelope grant and was administered by the NSW Environmental Trust.

All scientific, analytical, methodological and mapping aspects of the TEC mapping project were completed by the Office of Environment and Heritage Native Vegetation Information Science Branch. Independent specialist consultancies were also engaged to deliver key aspects of the work. The EPA convened a TEC Project Reference Panel of regional experts to provide technical input and support project delivery. Over the life of the project, there was ongoing engagement with the NSW Scientific Committee.

FCNSW and the EPA will use the maps to identify, protect and regulate TECs in state forests, in accordance with a memorandum of understanding (PDF 504KB).

In undertaking forestry operations, FCNSW must still comply with the strict liability offences for harming TECs set in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

TEC’s are often difficult to identify in the field, where they can be very similar to the surrounding forest. As the descriptions of TECs are complex and do not have mapped extents, both FCNSW and EPA have had significant challenges in accurately and consistently identifying and managing TEC’s to date.

The maps increase the certainty around the location of TECs, and bring a much higher standard of transparency to the management and regulation of forestry in areas where TECs occur. Importantly, the maps will provide a robust and consistent evidence base for decision making, planning and regulation.

The project has improved understanding of scientific committee determinations and identification of TECs, and will lead to improved assistance and advice on identifying TECs on other tenures of land.

The project only assessed the location and extent of TECs in state forests. The EPA will consider expanding TEC mapping to private native forestry areas.

The NSW Government is considering how the mapping could be used as part of the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) remake. The specific requirements for the protection of TECs under a remade coastal IFOA are still being developed. The public will have an opportunity to comment on these when the coastal IFOA is placed on public exhibition in 2017.

TECs, as listed by the NSW Scientific Committee, are not available for timber harvesting as the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 prohibits the picking or harming of all TECs. The current IFOAs do not authorise any forestry operations in TECs. As such, the 18 TECs mapped by the EPA continue to be unavailable for timber production. Most of these TECs have been unavailable for harvesting for over a decade.

As TECs have never been mapped before, their impact on timber availability has not been known by FCNSW.  The NSW Government will now be able to quantify the impact of TEC’s on timber availability from the State forests estate. This mapping will enable future modelling of wood supply to reflect the improved understanding of where TECs occur, and provide for better planning for the industry and improved conservation outcomes for TECs.

 
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