Assets with Eyes

Measuring the Intangible

18 Dec 2020

At the Park, many things that are of great value cannot be measured, such as the peace of being surrounded by nature in a bustling city, fun experiences such as finding the first cicada shell of summer, and occasionally, the awe and privilege of seeing rare wildlife in the Park.

While the value of nature and our experience in them is intangible, we as managers of the Park’s environmental assets do use numbers and figures to help us better understand complex issues and to protect the environment. As the saying goes, ‘’you can’t manage what you can’t measure’.

The Authority has a long-running ecological monitoring program that began formally in 2004. Within this program is a suite of flora and fauna surveys that helps us better understand the condition of the environment, and allows us to evaluate the efficacy of our management efforts.

Some of our work in 2020 include:

  • Annual monitoring of the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog, including the rate of pond occupancy, number of large breeding females, breeding events across the Park, and the condition of their habitat. 135 adult frogs were captured and microchipped to help us understand their longevity and movement.
  • Assessment of the extent and condition of the Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest (Critically Endangered Ecological Community), Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest (Endangered Ecological Community) and mangroves. All vegetation communities are considered to be in good condition.
  • Annual surveys of migratory shorebird – long distance migrant birds that breed in the northern hemisphere and overwinter in Australia. 5 species were recorded in the Park – Bar-tailed Godwit, Pacific Golden Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint. The Park supports close to 100% of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in the Parramatta River estuary; however, Bar-tailed Godwit numbers are well below the 5 and 10 year average. The Waterbird Refuge and Newington Nature Reserve wetland continue to provide key habitat.
  • Annual Latham’s snipe survey; recording the highest numbers (30) since targeted surveys began in 2004, more than double the 10-year average.
  • Woodland bird surveys – identified a decline likely due to the continuing impact of urban adapted species such as the Noisy Miner and climate i.e. extreme hot weather and drought. A habitat modification program is underway to assist in retaining this group of birds.
  • Annual inspection of nest and roost boxes; we recorded the first Lesser Long-eared Bat breeding activity in a box, increasing the number of microbat species breeding in roost boxes to three.
  • Many others including annual reptile surveys, lightspill surveys, benthic fauna monitoring and more.

These surveys and others such as the Spring Bird Census are undertaken at regular intervals (usually every year), and often with the support of many citizen scientists, allowing the Authority to obtain large amounts of data. We would like to thank all eco-friends and contractors for their contribution, and we look forward to sharing new information with you in 2021.

Some of the volunteers who made the 2020 reptile surveys possible ©Frank Valckenborgh

Green and Golden Bell Frog being assessed as part of the annual monitoring program ©Evan Pickett

Inspecting a microbat roost box high above the ground © Tina Hsu