The Conservation Management Zones of Australia were developed through analysis of best available ecological modelling, national environmental datasets and existing continental regionalisations. The methodology included consideration of vascular plant compositional similarity, land use intensity mapping, fire-scar mapping and National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) data. These attributes were then assessed according to their alignment with the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) regions and sub-regions.
The Conservation Management Zones are based on IBRA as it has long-standing status with all jurisdictions and within the scientific community. All Conservation Management Zones are aggregates of IBRA regions or IBRA subregions.
The modelling of vascular plant compositional similarity was used as the principal indicator of continental biodiversity pattern. This dataset was grouped into 85 classes to explore its alignment with the 85 mainland IBRA bioregions. There was a high level of correspondence between the biodiversity modelling and IBRA and some notable differences. Where these differences occurred, the compositional similarity modelling guided splits and regrouping of IBRA subregions as a basis for delineating some Conservation Management Zone boundaries.
Mapping of fire frequency in Northern Australia guided delineation of the Northern Australia Tropical Savanna Woodlands zone.
All boundaries were then cross-referenced with the NVIS dataset and the expert-derived WWF Eco-Regions to create the descriptors for each zone.
Land use intensity
Cadastral parcel size was used as a surrogate for land use intensity and was found to correlate well with Departmental analysis of vegetation fragmentation. This analysis guided differentiation between high and low intensive land use regions of Australia.
Conservation Management Zones in the most intensive land use regions of Australia are the most finely delineated. This reflects more complex NRM needs where human population densities are greater.
Conversely, more than half of Australia’s IBRA regions and vascular plant compositional similarity classes are encompassed within two large low land use intensity zones - Arid Shrublands and Desert, and Northern Australian Tropical Savanna Woodlands. This is because the drivers within these zones are more uniform and less complex. Although there is still considerable biological variation within the larger zones, the management requirements and opportunities are considered to be broadly similar within them.
Land use type
Land use type, based on Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program (ACLUMP) mapping, was initially considered as a primary analysis layer. However, this information did not offer enough discriminatory power, with respect to the intensity of land uses within any given land use category. For example, the classification of “Grazing Natural Vegetation” covers approximately 57.6% of Australia’s land surface, but does not indicate the high variability of grazing intensity that occurs within that classification.
Although it was determined that land use intensity (cadastral parcel size) was a more appropriate basis for identifying Conservation Management Zones, information on different land use types is provided within each Conservation Management Zone profile.
Other large-scale regionalisations
A range of other existing regionalisations, such as the Hutchinson Agro-Climatic zonation of Australia (18 units) funded by Land and Water Australia in 2005, and World Wildlife Fund Eco-Regions were considered first. However, contemporary modelling and data demonstrated that a more contemporaneous set of boundaries would be more appropriate for the purposes of Australian Government Natural Resource Management programmes.
Natural Resource Management regions
The project did not consider Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions to be appropriate units for profile development because NRM regions are not always reflective of distributions of natural values and threats (for example, stopping at state / territory borders). Many NRM regions share common threats and ecological characteristics, and the effectiveness of natural resource management may be improved by identifying where common management issues cross NRM boundaries.
 Williams, K.J., Ferrier, S., Rosauer, D., Yeates, D., Manion, G., Harwood, T., Stein, J., Faith, D.P., Laity, T., Whalen, A., (2010) Harnessing Continent-Wide Biodiversity Datasets for Prioritising National Conservation Investment. A report prepared for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Canberra
 Hutchinson MF, McIntyre S, Hobbs RJ, Stein JL, Garnett S, Kinloch J (2005) Integrating a global agro-climatic classification with bioregional boundaries in Australia. Global Ecology and Biogeography 14(3), 197-212.
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