The recent fires across NSW have created challenges for assessors quantifying the impacts of developments on burnt bushland and valuing potential Biodiversity Stewardship Sites.
Ecologist and Accredited BAM Assessor Dr Cairo Forrest summarises key points from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE)’s recently released guidelines for applying the Biodiversity Assessment Methodology (BAM) at severely burnt sites.
Following a fire event such as the catastrophic 2019–2020 bushfires, the values of severely burnt vegetation that are BAM assessed can be significantly altered and require additional methods and allowances to assess fairly. This includes identifying vegetation community types and conditions, and threatened species presence, habitat and distribution.
In order to help guide assessors, the DPIE has released guidelines for applying the Biodiversity Assessment Methodology (BAM) at severely burnt sites for Stages 1 and 2 (regarding DBARs and BCARs): https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/research-and-publications/publications-search/guideline-for-applying-biodiversity-assessment-method-at-severely-burnt-sites-assessment-reports (referred to as the ‘guidance document’ henceforth).
The general framework for assessors is around first determining if subject land was burnt in the 2019-2020 fires (using the Google Earth Engine Burnt Area Map or GEEBAM, which is clipped to the rural fire service mapping of 2019-2020 bushfire burnt areas), then determining the severity of the burn (by describing species richness, growth forms present, and other key structural components within the landscape) and finally following Table 2 of the guidance document, which runs through the specific new steps/considerations for applying the BAM to sites suspected and then confirmed as being severely burnt by the 2019-2020 fires.
Whilst the DPIE are open to assessors using a range of logical and scientifically defensible methods to collect data, or using pre-existing/partial data sets to estimate past vegetation integrity (prior to the fire), there is a pre-requisite for assessors to gain written approval for these methods with the determining authority (i.e., council) to attach to BDARs and BCARs assessing burnt land.
Similar guidance for Stage 3 of the BAM (regarding BSSARs) will be released soon but will likely mirror the above guidance in many ways.
Find out more
Additional support for the application of the BAM to a severely burnt site may be requested via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To discuss the implications for your project, contact us.