About the National Vegetation Information System

Why map Australia’s vegetation?

Australia's native vegetation is a rich and fundamental element of our natural heritage. It binds and nourishes our ancient soils; shelters and sustains wildlife; protects streams, wetlands, estuaries, and coastlines; absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen.

To ensure the continued survival of native flora in Australia, land managers, scientists and other decision-makers need up-to-date and reliable information. The maintenance and improvement of the National Vegetation Information System (NVIS) is a key initiative designed to meet the needs of those responsible for developing sustainable long-term solutions for Australian landscapes.

The need for improved vegetation information in Australia was recognised in the Vegetation Theme in the first National Land and Water Resources Audit, which resulted in the implementation of the NVIS. This theme also developed the NVIS Framework to support the Australian Native Vegetation Assessment 2001.

What is the National Vegetation Information System?

The NVIS is an ongoing collaborative initiative between the Australian and state and territory governments to manage national vegetation data to help improve vegetation planning and management within Australia. The NVIS was developed to assist in managing a range of ecosystem services and practices such as biodiversity conservation, salinity control, improving water quality and fuel-load management. The NVIS is guided by a set of principles (see box), and together with the NVIS Framework, database and products it represents a major achievement in national cooperation and in combining state and territory data into a standardised national collation.

Guiding Principles of the NVIS

  • resolving data and information differences across administrative and program boundaries to provide comparable and consistent data Australia wide;
  • collaborative work of mutual benefit;
  • recognising regional level environmental differences;
  • flexible and extendable;
  • fully documented quality and application of the component data sets;
  • delivering Information to meet current needs, foreshadowing and anticipating long-term needs;
  • improving the knowledge and information base of Australia's vegetation (pre-European and present) and addressing data gaps;
  • ensuring use is commensurate with data;
  • providing information and assessments to support vegetation and other natural resource decision making;
  • improving data access and dissemination;
  • recognising the jurisdictional role in meeting specific vegetation information requirements, management responsibilities and obligations.

The NVIS framework was developed to enable the compilation of a nationally consistent vegetation dataset from data collected by states and territories. It provides a comprehensive means of describing and representing vegetation information based on establishing relationships between structural and floristic data. The NVIS Information Hierarchy is a system for describing the structural and floristic patterns of groups of plants in the landscape. Collectively, the different levels in the classification provide a description of vegetation that can be directly related to precise spatial areas as a vegetation map.

Further information on the NVIS Hierarchy can be found in the Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual (Table 1).

The NVIS framework:

  • specifies guidelines for standardising the collection, compilation and monitoring of Australia's vegetation;
  • stores data on the type and extent of native vegetation;
  • holds standardised geographic and attribute data for native vegetation across Australia that facilitates analysis and reporting; and
  • provides and maintains the technical infrastructure to support these activities.

Details of the NVIS Framework are available in the Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual

NVIS Data

Each state and territory has developed an NVIS-compatible database which is populated with its native vegetation data. This data – often derived from decades of activity in vegetation survey and mapping using a variety of methods and classifications – is provided for collation into the NVIS database by the Australian Government, which also leads on building and improving the system architecture.

Management of the NVIS

The NVIS was initially managed (2001- 2010) through the Executive Steering Committee for Australian Vegetation Information (ESCAVI) which comprised senior representatives from the Australian Government and each state and territory. The NVIS is now managed on an as needs basis by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities, in consultation with the states and territories.