NERP – Aligning protocols for assessing the status of Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens of the Australian Alps

 Anita Wild & Regina Magierowski, February 2015

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An analysis of techniques to characterise the state of bogs in the Australian Alps and understand risk. Part of The National Environmental Research Program (NERP) Landscapes and Policy Hub.

Introduction

Alpine Sphagnum bogs and associated fens (hereafter ‘bogs’) are restricted to high elevations in south-eastern Australia and are listed nationally as an endangered vegetation community due to limited distribution, past loss and threatening processes. Research has shown that bogs have suffered a reduction in ecological function and resilience across most of the geographic distribution due to myriad impacts such as those associated with pest animal species (specifically horses, pigs and deer), weeds, wildfire, altered hydrological regimes and climate change. As a result, preservation, conservation and restoration of these communities are national priorities and detailed assessment of the relative risks and management responses is required in a regionally coordinated manner.

Fortunately, there has been much research by Australian Alps management agencies across the ACT, NSW and Victoria and researchers mapping, classifying and characterising bogs. These numerous projects were driven by a range of objectives, questions and specific threats and have subsequently resulted in many data sets that have varying data scales, variables measured and resolution. While these data have been of utility in answering agency and region-specific management questions, it was not possible to amalgamate these data to assess alps-wide issues affecting bogs, to compare bog resilience, or prioritise and coordinate responses to threats.

This project set out to review existing bog research for the Australian Alps and use these data to assess alps-wide issues affecting bogs, to compare bog resilience, or prioritise and coordinate responses to threats. These threats (or pressures) have been identified and prioritised by the Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens Recovery Plan Steering Committee members which includes representatives from the mainland Alps regions and Tasmania. Currently, the draft plan has summarised the major risks to these vegetation communities to include: impacts from wildfire, invasive species – in particular horses, deer and woody weeds, domestic stock grazing, infrastructure, recreation and resource use and climate change.