Western Areas commenced monitoring of Steedman’s Gum under a revised Management Plan in early 2015. With considerable efficiencies gained under the optimised monitoring program, Western Areas can now devote more time and resources to achieving good management outcomes for other environmental aspects at the mine.
In 2014, Astron assisted Western Areas to review and improve their monitoring program for Steedman’s Gum (Eucalyptus steedmanii) at Forrestania. The monitoring program had been in place since 2009 and involved frequent assessments of tree health and measures of dust deposition, regarded as a potential threat to tree health.
The review of the program was undertaken by Astron scientists with considerable experience in the design and implementation of vegetation monitoring programs. Firstly, monitoring data collected since 2009 were analysed for trends and historical variability. This showed that Steedman’s Gum has remained healthy and that variation across monitoring periods has been minimal. It also showed that dust deposition, although highly variable from survey to survey, has decreased.
As such, Astron demonstrated a solid case for a reduction in monitoring frequency. Monitoring methods and analysis were also improved without requiring any significant increase in monitoring effort: the tree health rating system was adapted to be more sensitive to small changes in health and control charts for dust deposition were developed to assist management decisions with respect to dust and the potential impact on the trees.
Following the review, Astron revised and updated Western Areas’ Steedman’s Gum Conservation Management Plan to include the proposed changes to the monitoring program. This included a report that presented evidence and logical arguments for the change. Subsequently, Western Areas sought and gained approval from the regulator for the updated plan.