Western Sydney Urban Bushland Survey

The 1995-96 Western Sydney Urban Bushland Survey was the first of a series of survey programs for the Sydney region. The survey focuses on the Cumberland Plain region of western Sydney, because it is one of the most threatened areas in NSW.

Scope of the survey

The survey focused on native vegetation remnants on the Cumberland Plain in western Sydney, one of the areas under the greatest threat in the whole of NSW. The data collected through the survey will identify ways of conserving the natural environment of western Sydney.

The project concentrated on birds, mammals, flowering plants and some aquatic invertebrates.


Map showing the study area of the Western Sydney urban bushland survey

Map showing the study area of the Western Sydney urban bushland survey

Twelve local government areas, covering parts of the Cumberland Plain, were included:


  • Auburn
  • Bankstown
  • Blacktown
  • Baulkham Hills
  • Camden
  • part of Campbelltown
  • Fairfield
  • part of Hawkesbury
  • Holroyd
  • Liverpool
  • Parramatta
  • Penrith.

Survey methods

It was important to establish a set process at the start of the survey. The initial task was to collect as much as possible of the existing information on the species and landscapes of the Cumberland Plain.

Reports from local government areas, species lists, and records of rare or threatened species were reviewed. Much of the material was obtained from the National Herbarium, the Australian Museum and the Atlas of NSW Wildlife. The reviewed material provided the parameters for the survey and established the criteria on which to commence fieldwork.

Fieldwork was a major component of the survey. A comprehensive survey of bushland remnants in western Sydney was not possible in the limited time available, so sites were prioritised. The larger, more intact areas of native vegetation, or remnant vegetation, were given priority.

In addition, if a particular ecological community was rare or if a threatened species was likely to occur at a particular site, these areas were also given priority. In total, over 220 areas of remnant vegetation were surveyed. The sizes of remnant areas varied in order to compare differences in the number of species present and degree of disturbance. Smaller sites were selected due to their important role in maintaining biodiversity in local areas.

Apart from NPWS officers, a number of specialist flora and fauna consultants were engaged to conduct the field work. Volunteers, students and NPWS staff with local knowledge were also involved at various stages of the survey. All field workers were provided with pro-forma sheets in order to ensure consistency of information recorded. They were also provided with lists of priority species and their likely habitat.

Some findings of the survey
The survey found that much of western Sydney's biodiversity has been lost since European colonisation. See a summary.

Planning for the future
The survey report recommended strategies for conservation in western Sydney. Find out more.
Page last updated: 18 February 2014