Feature Length Live Virtual Presentation 10th Australian Stream Management Conference 2021

A birds eye view: Using remotely sensed data to monitor Limits of Acceptable Change in the Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site (#6)

Sean Phillipson 1 , Jennifer Hale 2 , Dr Shane Brooks 3
  1. East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia
  2. Jennifer Hale Aquatic Ecology Consultant, Wandong, Victoria, Australia
  3. Brooks Ecology and Technology, Warrandyte South, Victoria, Australia

Monitoring Ecological Character within Ramsar sites is critical to meeting obligations under the Ramsar Convention. The Gippsland Lakes is an extensive site with complex monitoring needs. A cost-effective framework was required to understand the extent of different habitat types and help detect changes over time.

A framework to map the extent and density of seagrass within the Gippsland Lakes using satellite imagery was developed. It provided a cost-effective method to produce accurate maps of seagrass distribution, enabling site managers to better understand current conditions.

The GIS mapping techniques developed have been applied to seagrass, saltmarsh, and freshwater wetland vegetation communities to produce vegetation distribution maps.

Through a series of projects, the cost effectiveness and accuracy of mapping based on free satellite imagery has been assessed.

Whilst the resolution of satellite imagery products may limit the development of fine scale habitat mapping, this is often not required to make fundamental management decisions or answer higher level questions, like those related to vegetation extent or density.

The results produced have provided a sound base to answer  monitoring questions, where previously resource limitations have been considered a barrier.

Monitoring ecological change across large landscapes can be complex and costly. If monitoring approaches are designed carefully around the questions being asked, more cost-effective and spatially extensive monitoring is achievable by using free remotely sensed data.

Real projects have shown that mapping techniques developed for seagrass can be successfully applied to a range of vegetation types and have potential for further application in aquatic systems.

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