Assessing native groundcover
This fact sheet outlines how landholders can self-assess the conservation value of native grasslands and groundcover on their own property.
The Land Management Framework allows landholder to assess the conservation value of groundcover on Category 2 - regulated land. Native groundcover is low conservation value if:
1. less than 50 % of the vegetation cover is comprised of native species of vegetation, and
2. not less than 10% of the area is covered with vegetation (whether dead or alive).
What is groundcover?
Groundcover is any type of herbaceous vegetation including grasses, forbs, herbs and similar low-growing, non-woody plants.
What method should I use?
One of the two methods outlined below can be used to determine the conservation value of native groundcover on your property:
1. step point
Step point method
1. Prepare a field sheet like the example provided on page 3 (Step point method - field sheet), on which to record your observations.
2. Identify an area typical in terms of the amount of cover and proportion of native groundcover.
3. Walk 100 steps in a straight line across the selected area.
4. At each step, record the groundcover at the tip of your boot, using these categories:
- native vegetation – grass, herbs, low shrubs (Column A), or
- non-native vegetation – grass, herbs, low shrubs (Column B), or
- bare ground and other; e.g., rock, cryptogam (moss/ lichen) (Column C).
5. Repeat this in at least four other areas across the cleared site, covering variations in groundcover where possible.
6. Work out the average of each column by dividing the total count for the column by the number of assessment lines.
7. To calculate the overall percentage of groundcover in the area you have chosen, add the average from Column A to the average from Column B.
8. To calculate the percentage of the groundcover that is native vegetation, divide the average of Column B by the overall groundcover percentage from the previous step and then multiply by 100.
This method uses a square frame (quadrat) of at least 70 centimetres x 70 centimetres (see Figure 1 - Quadrat).
Such a quadrat is easily assembled using four thin pieces of PVC pipe cut to equal lengths and joined with tight-fitting elbow joints.
1. Prepare a field sheet like the example provided on page 4 (Quadrat method), on which to record your observations.
2. Within the area you are assessing, select at least five areas of groundcover that are typical of the groundcover across the site, in terms of the amount of cover and proportion of native groundcover.
3. For each representative area (sample area), place the quadrat randomly 10 times.
4. For each quadrat placement estimate the:
- percentage of the quadrat that has vegetative groundcover (non-native and native groundcover), and record this in Column A (squares Q1 to Q10)
- percentage of groundcover in the quadrat that is native, and record this in Column B (squares Q1 to Q10).
5. For each sample area and for each column, add squares Q1 to Q10 and divide these totals by 10 to yield the:
- average percentage of groundcover (native and non-native) across the sample area
- average percentage of native groundcover across the sample area.
6. For the whole site and for each column, add the averages from all sample areas and divide these totals by the number of sample areas to yield the:
- average percentage of groundcover (native and non-native) across the entire site
- average percentage of native groundcover across the entire site.
Figure 1. Quadrat
How and when should I conduct the assessment?
Using either the step point or quadrat method landholders must conduct their assessment under the following conditions:
- the landholder must conduct the assessment in a scientific and objective manner,
- the assessment must be conducted at the time of year when the proportion of native groundcover is likely to be at its maximum, and
- the assessment must not be conducted if the groundcover has been significantly disturbed in the past six months, e.g. by fire or drought.
What records should I keep?
The following records must be kept for at least five years from the date of the clearing:
- a map showing the area that was the subject of the calculation,
- a record of the season in which the calculation was made,
- a statement of how the calculation was made, and
- photographs that clearly show the type of groundcover in the mapped area.
To find out more about native vegetation and your options under the Land Management Framework:
- contact Local Land Services on 1300 795 299
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- go to lls.nsw.gov.au/slm
- call in to your nearest Local Land Services office and ask for a Sustainable Land Management officer.