We’ve developed decision support tools to support choices for Victorians protecting the future of our plants, animals, and habitats. These tools bring together the best information available in one place.

Taking action to protect nature is urgent. Choosing the best action can be complex. Large amounts of information and the multiple needs of thousands of species must be considered at the same time.

Our specialised tools organise this information, helping to inform how we best prioritise and manage land for conservation in Victoria.

These tools have been developed as part of the NaturePrint project supporting Protecting Victoria's Environment – Biodiversity 2037.

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Strategic Management Prospects (SMP)

[text on screen: Protecting Victoria’s Environment, Biodiversity 2037]

[gentle music plays]


Victorians have a deep connection to nature and want our biodiversity to be healthy, valued, and actively cared for.

Protecting our biodiversity is a big job. There are many threats. And there's limited time and resources to address them. We know we need to work together to do this.

But how do we know where and how we can have the most impact? Biodiversity is much more complex than any of us can keep in our heads. So we need a big data, science-based approach integrating knowledge from lots of experts.

To help us see where our work can do the most good for the most species, the Victorian government has created a tool called Strategic Management Prospects, or SMP, to help us all make better decisions about protecting biodiversity and to help guide actions across the state.

SMP can be accessed online through NatureKit, one of DELWP's public data platforms.

SMP combines the best available data, including information from species experts, species observation data, and species threat maps.

SMP is flexible. Users can access the map layers and SMP reports to explore combinations of threats, benefits of actions, and cost effectiveness.

SMP shows which actions in what locations will be the most cost effective and beneficial to the most species. It also tells us which actions will best help individual species, allowing users to compare their management options.

SMP is continually being improved with advice from species experts and local land managers. A range of data collected by people working for and observing the environment also contributes to SMP.

You can add your species observations via VBA Go or provide data about your on-ground action using the information on DELWP's activity data web page.

Time and resources to help biodiversity are limited. So we need to work smart.
SMP information helps us make the best decisions for biodiversity for our places, species, and landscapes.

Together, we can make sure Victoria's biodiversity is healthy, valued, and actively cared for.

Explore SMP and NatureKit at environment.vic. gov.au/biodiversity/naturekit.


[End of transcript]

Strategic Management Prospects (SMP) is a decision support tool which can be accessed through NatureKit, our online mapping platform.

SMP displays how and where we can make the biggest difference for as many species across Victoria as possible and deliver the targets of Biodiversity 2037. SMP combines evidence-based models for thousands of plant and animal habitats, major threats to their survival, and indicative costs of management.

A set of common landscape-scale management options have been assessed by species experts and leaders in conservation. At every location in Victoria, the effectiveness of these potential actions at improving the outlook of species has been determined, with stronger scores given to threatened species. This helps us focus on making the biggest difference possible with the resources we have to protect our threatened species and all of nature.

SMP is updated regularly with advances in conservation knowledge, species records, and land management activities. In 2021, updates were made to SMP’s estimated benefits of revegetation, and to some of the species and threat models. SMP was also updated to include new information from the 2019-2020 bushfires, and the impacts of fire and timber harvesting.

Whether you are helping to manage a threatened species or special place, or working to control a threat to Victoria’s plants and animals, SMP provides information to help prioritise your options. The tool can be used by anyone planning actions for biodiversity.

The scientific methods behind SMP has been published in  Biological Conservation.

You can also read how SMP helped guide our response to the 2019-2020 bushfires in the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions.

How can you provide data?

SMP is regularly updated as new research data and modelling methods become available. To contribute information that will inform future updates to SMP, submit species observation records to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas with VBAGo!

Feedback on SMP’s data and usability is welcomed and will help us with future updates. Get in touch at nature.print@delwp.vic.gov.au.

To see how we’re identifying biodiversity knowledge gaps to better invest in research, monitoring and data collection, visit our Knowledge Framework.

Using SMP with a landscape, place, threat/action or species focus

If you’re responsible for making landscape-scale decisions, you can use SMP to compare project options.

A landscape could be a large SMP Summary Area, regional catchment, Local Government Area, National Park, Landcare network, etc. SMP can inform transparent decisions to manage and conserve biodiversity at a landscape scale.

The SMP Mean Cost-effectiveness layer (purple and green) shows where we can make the most overall difference state-wide. This is a mean value, so also check the SMP Individual Action layers - Threat (red), Benefit of Action (green) and Benefit-cost layers (purple) – to see where highly-ranked actions occur across a landscape. The SMP Summary Area Reports are interactive, and include which species are important to that Summary Area.

If you’re responsible for a place, SMP can help you choose actions to help the most species in that location.

Use the SMP Individual Action layers - Threat (red), Benefit of Action (green) and Benefit-cost layers (purple) - to find out the best actions to do so your actions can provide as much benefit as possible for the plants and animals you are interested in. SMP Summary Area Reports will help you find out about the biodiversity priorities for that area and the surrounding area.

If you’re responsible for a threat management program SMP can show where it can make the most difference.

SMP can help if you’re planning actions against a particular threat. For example, SMP can help you find the most cost-effective places for action for fox control, and where to best help the species most sensitive to foxes. The Benefit-cost layers (purple) show the most cost-effective places for each action. Darker areas indicate the places where treatment will achieve the greatest benefit for the most species, so these are the best places to focus on.

If you’re responsible for managing a species, SMP information can show how and where to make the most difference for that species.

The SMP integrated analysis takes into account the interests of all species in SMP. The darkest purple places on the Mean Cost-effectiveness Rank layer are the best places to focus action to look after as many species in Victoria as we can. If you are interested in a particular species, you can use the interactive SMP Species Reports and SMP Summary Area Reports which show which actions, and where, will most benefit individual species. These reports can help you to decide where to act and what to do  .

Some species don’t benefit from the landscape-scale actions in SMP. Use the Scatterplot in the SMP Summary Area Report or the Species Prospects curves in the SMP Species Reports to check whether a species needs further attention such as a Specific Needs Analysis (see Specific Needs below).


Specific Needs Assessment

Some conservation decisions need to consider specific actions that fall outside of the options presented through SMP. In these cases, we can still compare the benefits and costs of a range of actions by using a Specific Needs Assessment.

These assessments provide focused decision support to help managers of threatened species estimate the cost-effectiveness and benefits of a range of targeted conservation actions.

The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team applied this approach to conserve this critically endangered species. As a direct result, the population of this species in the wild has increased in recent years.

This approach for Orange-bellied Parrot management has been published in Conservation Science and Practice.

Watch the video below to find out how the assessments can be completed, why they work, and how you can undertake one for a threatened species you’re interested in:

[Text on screen: Specific Needs Assessment: A tool for saving threatened species. Case Study: Orange-bellied Parrot]

[gentle music plays]

Rachel Pritchard:

The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team used Specific Needs Assessment to compare which strategy we thought was probably our best bet to try and save them from extinction and hopefully see them recover.

[Text on screen: Rachel Pritchard, Senior Biodiversity Officer, The Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP)]

So Specific Needs Assessment is a spatial cost-effectiveness tool that DELWP has developed which lets you look at the benefit and cost effectiveness of management actions, or suites of actions in

management scenarios, to look at where you might get the best benefit for your species.

My name is Rachel Pritchard.

I work for DELWP, in the Threatened Species Framework Policy Team.

The Orange-bellied Parrot is a small, migratory ground parrot.

They're a little bigger than a budgie.

They breed in the summer in remote southwest Tasmania and every autumn fly up the west coast of Tasmania to come and spend winter along the coast of South Australia and Victoria before flying south again in spring to return to their breeding grounds.

[Map of southern Australia, showing the annual migration pattern of Orange-bellied Parrots between Tasmania and South Australia and Victoria)

They're critically endangered, and as the population became smaller, they contracted to only

breeding in one location, in a place called Melaleuca.

So the Orange-bellied Parrot was the first species in Australia to have a recovery team, and they started focusing on the species in the early 1980s.

When the numbers of Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild became very low, the species has been really dependent on releasing birds from our large captive breeding program to top up those numbers and prevent extinction in the wild.

In 2016, when the numbers were less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild and three females returned to the breeding site, Orange-bellied Parrots were right on the brink of extinction in the wild.

The recovery team had to make bold choices about how we were going to respond to that.

And we had to do that with little time and with a lot of uncertainty because when you try

new management actions, you're not sure how they're going to go.

[parrots chirp]

Because Specific Needs Assessment allows you to include everybody's voice, and because it allows you to document your uncertainty and move through it, it can be a really important tool to help threatened species managers weigh up complex decisions and alternative strategies and choose a path forward, when otherwise, it might be difficult to choose the next step.

[gentle music plays]

The recovery team used Specific Needs Assessment to compare what we had been doing for the last few years, our status quo, to a range of different alternative strategies, allocating released birds in different ways.

The results of that showed that across the whole recovery team, there was a strong feeling that juvenile release was our most likely beneficial strategy.

People felt even more strongly in support of releasing those really young birds than what they had said in the group discussion and that we should allocate more resources to that.

The recovery team quickly increased the number of birds we were breeding in captivity that year.

So instead of the 35 juveniles for release, we would have 50 available.

This was a bolder decision than we were prepared to make before undertaking Specific Needs Assessment, and it's let us see some really amazing results occur in the field.

This is a species that's been declining for 40 years, and now we have two years of population increase.

[gentle music continues]

In the breeding season following our Specific Needs Assessment, the recovery team released 50 juveniles at the breeding site at the end of summer.

This led to the largest number of birds migrating north than we had seen in over a decade.

And we hoped that that would translate to a larger number of birds returning to the breeding site for the following breeding season.

It was really exciting to see the first increase in birds arriving at the breeding site.

51 Orange-bellied Parrots returned, which was a ten-year high.

And for comparison, in most of the ten years prior to that, we had around 20 or 25 birds returning for breeding.

That led to a really successful breeding season, which broke all the records, including most number of baby Orange-bellied Parrots banded in a single day.

And then we let another 50 juvenile birds go at the end of that breeding season.

This meant that over the last winter, 192 Orange-bellied Parrots flew north on their migration into

their winter grounds, which was a number we probably couldn't have imagined getting to so quickly.

These outcomes are possible because of brave decisions that were made based on the limited

data that was available and the collective best guess of the experts that know this species best.

We were aided using the Specific Needs Assessment that allowed us to identify our uncertainty but move past it to choose the management strategy that we thought was going to work best.

And fortunately, it looks like we've been proven correct.

Learn more about Specific Needs Assessment online, and see how it can help you protect Victoria's biodiversity.

[Text on screen: Specific Needs Assessment: a tool for saving threatened species. www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/natureprint]

[Text on screen: The Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning would like to thank: Zoos Victoria, Birdlife Australia, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team and the Mainland Release Team for use of their stills and footage.]

[Text on screen: delwp.vic.gov.au]

[gently music fades]

[End of transcript]

Habitat Distribution Models

Our decision support tools use Habitat Distribution Models. The models predict and map where species are most likely to occur, and also where they might not occur, using the best information we have available.

NatureKit displays Habitat Distribution Models for around 4,200 species.

They are built from species sightings and observation data reported to Victoria’s Biodiversity Atlas.

Learn more about Habitat Distribution Models.

Contact Us

For help or further information get in touch at nature.print@delwp.vic.gov.au.

Page last updated: 05/09/22