Targeted Significant Flora Surveys
The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is the custodian of a number of guidelines which specify how environmental assessments should be carried out. Surveys should be in accordance with these guidelines, in order to be accepted as adequately thorough and having met the standards and expectations of the environmental regulator and other decision making authorities.
One of the Technical Guidance documents is Flora and Vegetation Surveys for Environmental Impact Assessment (EPA 2016). This guideline dictates how flora surveys should be carried out. Vegetation surveys are also addressed in the guideline. It is the expectation of the EPA that detailed flora and vegetation assessments conducted to inform the environmental impact assessment process dedicate a proportion of the survey time to targeted searches for conservation significant (Threatened and Priority) flora in a selection of habitats.
Without proper and adequate survey, including targeted flora surveys, proposals may not be approved, or surveys may be required to be repeated, which can result in added costs and project delays.
How are Targeted Significant Flora Surveys carried out?
Targeted flora surveys conducted in the field will be informed by a desktop assessment, completed before mobilising to the field. The desktop assessment will identify significant flora that may occur and enable a target list to be prepared. Field guides, providing photographs and other information about the species, such as physical descriptions and notes on habitat preferences are also prepared to be taken into the field, to assist field botanists in identifying target species in the field.
Once in the field, there are a number of methods and levels of detail that can be used to undertake targeted flora surveys. The method selected will depend on a number of things, including:
- The nature of the project (e.g. developments with proposed clearing may require thorough and exhaustive surveys, whereas flora monitoring may be less intensive)
- The stage of the project (if early in the planning process, significant effort towards targeted surveys may not be required, since design and therefore footprints may change)
- The likelihood of significant flora occurring (where significant species are known to occur and a population census is required, thorough and exhaustive effort may be required)
- The physical appearance of target species (if searching for trees, searches can be widely spaced, whereas very small, inconspicuous flora such as orchids require a closer look and much finer scale searching)
- The visibility of vegetation and target species (searching for large shrubs on the open spinifex plains of the Pilbara would require less intensive searching than searching for a small sedge in dense wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain)
The targeted search method should be tailored according to the above and may also take guidance from other documents such as Survey Guidelines for Australia’s Threatened Orchids. Consultation with regulatory authorities and decision making authorities prior to conducting the surveys may assist in confirming that a suitable approach is taken.
Our FVC team have well-refined methods for field surveys for significant flora. Searches are conducted systematically, using a series of transect traverses which, the individual route of which are recorded using GPS. These track files can be presented in reports, with shapefiles able to be submitted to regulators, which clearly demonstrates survey effort and extent. Field navigation and tracking of search traverses utilises specialist GIS software on GPS-enabled tablet devices. Field data is also recorded directly into the spatial software.
Where observed, the location of each potentially significant taxon is recorded, and the local abundance, landform and associated flora species noted. Data collected is sufficient to allow the completion of necessary report forms.
Where field identification with absolute certainty is not possible in the field, a specimen is collected and/or photographs taken, to assist in taxonomic identification afterwards. Specialist taxonomists are consulted for identifications, where required, and all collections are made under appropriate permits.
Targeted Flora Survey Capabilities
Focused Vision Consulting Pty Ltd (FVC) are specialists in targeted significant flora surveys and flora monitoring surveys, having completed dozens of projects over the past several years. The team particularly specialise in and are known for their targeted threatened orchid surveys across the south-west.
Targeted flora surveys are carried out by an experienced in-house team of specialists, supplemented by numerous sub-consultants where large teams are required to cover vast project areas.
Key Relevant Project Experience
- Main Roads WA & the Integrated Project Team (with Jacobs & Arup), Great Northern Hwy, Bindoon Bypass, flora, vegetation and fauna assessments, targeted flora surveys including for Thelymitra stellata (2016, 2017, 2018)
- Perth Airport, targeted flora, vegetation, fauna and habitat assessments (entire airport estate and three offset sites) (2016-2017)
- City of Cockburn, Cockburn Central East Local Structure Plan area and Verde Drive Extension, flora, vegetation and fauna assessments, targeted flora surveys including for Caladenia huegelii and Drakaea elastica (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Ardea Resources Limited, Goongarrie Cobalt Nickel Project, two-phase detailed and targeted flora and vegetation assessments, targeted flora and PEC surveys (2018)
- Main Roads WA, NorthLink compliance, Targeted Caladenia huegelii surveys of Bush Forever Site 300 (offset site) (2018, 2019)
"Focused Vision Consulting has taken the time to get to know our business and our needs. Not only have they been able to tailor their assessments and reports to ensure they contain the information we require in an easy to use format, but they have also been able to anticipate our requirements and address them proactively. Kellie and her team always conduct themselves in a professional manner and are responsive to our needs. I would highly recommend Focused Vision Consulting."
Environmental Approvals Co-ordinator, Perth Airport, 2017