Methods - Agriculture and Threatened Species
A data layer was produced to mask, or exclude, those areas that were not currently available, or likely to be available, for soybean cropping in the Agriculture and threatened species case study. This included land use categories such as urban areas, Defence land, protected areas5 and buffer zones around the significant vegetation communities called monsoon vine thickets6 . This data layer, or mask, was derived from a range of input data sets but principally the Northern Territory Land Use Mapping for Biosecurity 20167.
The threatened species were identified from the SPRAT8 database (Species Profile and Threats), which is designed to provide information on species and communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The distribution across the region of the two species was modelled1 and those areas of highest habitat suitability (i.e. 1 = suitable and likely occupied) were overlayed with the Land Suitability assessment9 for an example crop of high interest to investors (soybean, grown in the dry-season with spray irrigation). This Land Suitability assessment was based on a range of soil, climate and topographic factors produced by the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment (NAWRA) and included those areas considered to be most suitable (i.e. Classes 1, 2 or 3 on a five-point scale).
More detail on methods is provided in the accompanying Methods Report (Stokes et al. 2019).
Note that each of the published data sets cited here have been compiled using a number of individual data sets, with at least 50 component data sets used in entirety.
The examples provided in this case study (Agriculture and threatened species case study) do not seek to replace formal government land use and conservation planning processes. They are designed to show how government can maximise its use of data assets from multiple sources, integrating them in ways which can provide policy insights. Formal land use planning and conservation planning is a complex process involving substantial stakeholder consultation and input, defined objectives for conservation and other purposes, articulation of biodiversity values and trade-offs and the need to consider not only where biodiversity can be currently found but where it may be found in the future due to landscape, ecological, climate and other changes.
Note that the National Environmental Science Program data used are a research output and may not align with the Australian Government distribution models which underpin the EPBC Act. Both development referrals and Commonwealth investment for biodiversity outcomes use the Australian Government species distribution models as a default, with further specific ecological reporting required from proponents for decision making.