This tool has been designed to be used with the Florabank Species Navigator. The Site Description Tool has many uses:
How to use the Site Description Tool
Download the Species Navigator Offline Scoring Sheet.xls
Work through the spreadsheet and fill in all the site description fields as instructed. The following content will help you find the information you need to fill in the spreadsheet. It either describes how to find the information, or directs you to a reference or online source.
The Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) divides Australia into 85 bioregions, with 403 sub-regions. Bioregions have similar environmental characteristics for plants and animals and are useful for thinking of clusters or similar environments.
You can find out about which bioregion your site is in, from the IBRA website. To download an ArcView Shape File or an ArcView Export File of the IBRA data, visit the DIG (Discover Information Geographically) website and type "IBRA" into the title field, then select "IBRA 6.1" from the results list.
The Australian Government has identified 56 Natural resource Management (NRM) Regions, based on catchments or recognized bioregions. For more information about NRM regions, or to determine your region, visit the NRM regions website.
Knowing which NRM region a site falls into can provide access to many other types of information. For example, several Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) or Catchment Boards are based on RM regions. The CMAs often have useful knowledge about the native vegetation of the catchment/area, which species are appropriate, and where to obtain seed for those species. Also, many CMAs have funding available for revegetation and related projects. Contact your local CMA or Catchment Board for more information.
Three climate parameters are very important for the survival and growth of native vegetation: mean annual rainfall and its distribution throughout the year; mean annual temperature range; and number of frosts in a year.
Mean Annual Rainfall
Mean Annual Rainfall is measured in millimeters. It is derived from those years for which rainfall has been recorded. In many parts of Australia, rainfall has been recorded for over 100 years. Rainfall distribution describes when the majority of the rainfall is received. Winter rainfall dominance is most common in the south of the continent, while the tropical regions are strongly summer dominant. Areas in the middle may have no obviously dominant rainfall period or may have winter and summer peaks of approximately equal magnitude.
Mean Annual Temperature Range
Mean Annual Temperature Range gives an indication of the range of temperature extremes. Plants growing in environments with big differences between maximum and minimum temperatures have to be very adaptable.
Number of frosts per year
Frosts can kill plants or reduce their growth. Frost is influenced by temperature, humidity and landform, but this measure gives an approximate indicator of the severity of frost and likelihood of occurrence at a particular site. The number of frosts below) deg per year is a useful indicator of severe frost.
Measuring these parameters
To determine the climate parameters for your site, go to the Australia Government Bureau of Meteorology website. Detailed climate information can be found at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/ by clicking on your State/Territory under Climate tables. Locate your town or the nearest locality from the station list.
For Mean Annual rainfall, use the ANN column of Mean Rainfall (mm). Look at the monthly averages to determine when your site receives most of its rainfall.
For Mean Annual Temperature Range, use the highest monthly temperature from Mean daily Max Temp (deg C) for Hottest, and the lowest monthly temperature from Mean Daily Min Temp (deg C) for Coldest.
For a rough estimate of frost days, use the line titled Mean no. Days, Min =<0.0 deg C.
The Bureau of Meteorology can provide this data only for locations where it has a weather station. You will need to choose from the station that is in a similar location and environment to your site. This may not necessarily be the closest station. Alternatively, you can get a very good estimate of the climate parameters for your site by using the Data Drill. You will need to enter the latitude and longitude for your site (see the Location Information section), and Data Drill then uses a range of weather stations to estimate climatic records for your site. There is a fee for this service.
Altitude (or Elevation)
Altitude (or Elevation) affects climate and is measured as metres above sea level. Altitude indicates broad scale effects such as climate. To determine your altitude, you can use a contour map, or Google Earth (see the Location Information section near the bottom of this webpage).
Soil is one of the most important factors in growth and survival of native vegetation. Understanding the type of soil at your site and some of its physical and chemical properties is important for successful vegetation management.
General information on Australian Soils can be found at the Australia Soil Resource Information Service website. This provides soil maps and associated information, however it is often at a scale too broad to be useful for site assessment or description. http://www.asris.csiro.au/index_ie.html
At the site level, soil usually needs to be described from inspection and testing in the field. The Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook (McDonald et al, 1990) describes the methods for testing and describing soils. The most important soil parameters for native vegetation are:
A full description can also be used with the Australian Soil Classification to give the soil a standard classification.
Reference: Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook, RC McDonald et al, 1990 (CSIRO Publishing). http://www.clw.csiro.au/aclep/Handbooks/Handbooks.htm
For more detailed information: DW Jacquier et al, 2001. Australian Soil Classification - An Interactive Key. (CSIRO Publishing).
This is additional information not needed for the Species Navigator, but it may be useful for your site description and helpful for planning revegetation on your site.
For more detailed information about recording Landform, including definitions, see the Australian Soil and Land Survey Field Handbook, RC McDonald et al., 1990 (CSIRO Publishing). A new version of this handbook is due for release in 2008. http://www.clw.csiro.au/aclep/Handbooks/Handbooks.htm
The principle landforms relevant to the management of native vegetation are: element, slope position, elevation and aspect.
Landform element affects microclimate, moisture and nutrient availability. Terms used to describe Landform element include:
Position on Slope:
Position on Slope affects microclimate, soil formation and moisture availability. Terms used to describe Position on Slope include:
Altitude (or Elevation):
Altitude (or Elevation) affects climate and are measured as metres above sea level. Altitude/Elevation indicates broad scale effects such as climate, while slope position indivates more localised microclimatic affects. For example, a site with high elevation located on a crest is likely to be cold, but not as cold as a high elevation, lower slope site.
Aspect affects the amount of solar ratiation received and describes the predominant direction that sloping land faces. Terms used to describe Aspect include:
This information is not needed to use Species Navigator, but will help you to identify the major vegetation groups and vegetation communities in your location.
Major vegetation groups
Specific vegetation communities
Ecological Vegetation Classes in
Native vegetation in
Once you have established which EVC your site belongs to, you can get the Benchmark Description sheet associated with that EVC. Go to this page and scroll down to the Victorian bioregions map. Choose the bioregion for your site, and then find the associated EVC by either number of name. You will need Adobe Reader to open the file.
Regional Ecosystem Maps in
Other sources of vegetation maps
ESCAVI (Executive Steering Committee for Australia Vegetation Information) is supporting the establishment of an environment portal to improve public access to vegetation and mapping information. This site will be accessible through http://www.environment.gov.au
This additional information is not needed for using the Species Navigator, but may be useful for your site description and helpful for planning revegetation on your site.
It is common practice to describe locations by using a grid system. Your location is described by the intersection of two lines, running perpendicular to each other. The most common examples of grid systems are latitude and longitude, and map references.
Latitude and longitude
The Earth is approximately spherical in shape. Points are measured in degrees, minutes and seconds. Latitude measures position from the equator, while longitude measures position from a fixed north-south line. Latitude lines run parralel to each other and begin at 0 degrees (Equator) and end at 90 degrees (the poles). Longitude lines begin at the south pole and end at the north pole, so are further away from each other at the equator than at the poles. The most practical way to measure latitude and longitude is using a GPS.
UTM Datums and Map Grids in
There are numerous mapping grids in use across the globe and there has been a concerted effort to standardise these grids so locations can be compared easily. If you have a GPS, you can use it to specify your location from a standard map grid. You will need to set your GPS to use a specific grid.
To convert from from AGD66 & 84 to GDA94, or from UTMs to Latitude and Longitude, go to Geoscience
If you don't have a GPS
If you don't have a GPS unit, you can still determine your site's coordinates with relatively good accuracy. Here are two ways:
1. Regional paper maps
Each state or territory has a government department that can provide paper maps, often at 1:25000 scale, which is good enough to see individual farm boundaries. These maps are usually detailed enough to determine your site's location. The coordinate information can then be obtained by reading the latitude from the sides of the map, and the longitude from the top or bottom of the map. Contact information for each State or Territory is as follows:
NSW: Sydney Map Shop
Land & Property Information NSW
Qld: Sunmap Centre
Dept of Natural Resources
Tas: Department of Primary Industries
(03) 6233 3382
Dept of Environment & Heritage
WA: Dept of Land Administration
(08) 9273 7075
2. From the internet
Google Earth, an interactive map website, has a tool which enables the user to zoom into their site and view an aerial photo, often at very high resolution (http://www.earth.google.com). The software is free to download for a basic version. Panning and zooming tools come in view when the mouse is held over the upper right-hand side of the image. By holding the mouse over the site, latitude and longitude coordinates are displayed in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Google Earth can also be accessed (without having to download the software to your computer) via the ASRIS website: http://www.asris.csiro.au/index_ie.html. Another on-line source of coordinate information comes from Geoscience