Spatial analysis of Tasmania’s native vegetation cover and potential implications for biodiversity conservation


  • Karyl Michaels,

  • Tony Norton,

  • Michael Lacey,

  • Jann Williams

Professor Tony Norton, Dr Karyl Michaels and Dr Michael Lacey undertook this research as part of the Australian Government funded CERF Landscape Logic National Research Hub that aims to advance the science of natural resource management at a property to landscape level, in collaboration with Professor Jann Williams who is an adjunct Professor at UTAS. Tony Norton leads the Natural Resource Management theme at the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (University of Tasmania, GPO Box 3523 Burnie, TAS Australia 7320; Tel +61-3-6430-4953; Email:


Summary  The landscape modification model proposed by McIntyre and Hobbs (1999) was used to assess the modification of Tasmania’s native vegetation and its potential implications for biodiversity conservation. The inclusion of new ‘substates’ in the model allowed the varying degrees of landscape variegation and fragmentation observed in Tasmania to be quantified. The mapped extent of Tasmania’s native vegetation is approximately 5.06 million ha or 74% of the land area. The extent of native vegetation varies across bioregions from a low of around 36% in the Tasmanian Northern Midlands bioregion to a high of 94% in the Tasmanian West bioregion. Overall, the Tasmanian landscape can be described as medium variegated as the State retains 76% cover of native vegetation, by area. Two of Tasmania’s nine bioregions are in an intact state, four are variegated, and three are fragmented. Seven of the State’s 48 catchments are in an intact state, 24 catchments are variegated, and 17 are fragmented. Tasmania was estimated to support 33 760 patches of native vegetation. Fewer than 3% of these patches exceed 50 ha in area. Small and medium patches occur predominantly on freehold land with grazing as a major land use, whereas large patches occur predominantly on crown land with conservation and production forestry as the major land uses. One feature of the State’s native vegetation is the large tract of native vegetation ecosystems in western Tasmania. Opportunities arise to sustain the resilience of these native ecosystems both by consolidating the formal protection of vegetation within catchments such as the Arthur and Pieman and by strengthening environmental management in adjacent areas. Bioregions and catchments where climate change may be of particular concern for biodiversity conservation and management include the Tasmanian Northern Midlands bioregion and Cam catchment in north-western Tasmania. The maintenance and enhancement of patches of remnant vegetation in these areas will be challenging and appears likely to require strategic, multiscale and coordinated natural resource management over decades. Limiting the loss of native vegetation across the entire range of landscape states in Tasmania appears essential to mitigate the further decline of biodiversity.