NSW State Vegetation Type Map

The State Vegetation Type Map is the most complete and consistent representation of the distribution of Plant Community Types across NSW.

It is a powerful information resource benefitting landholders, environmental planners and local communities by showing the extent of native plant communities in NSW.

Image of the State Vegetation Type Map 

What is the State Vegetation Type Map?

The State Vegetation Type Map (SVTM) is a regional-scale map of each of the three levels of the NSW vegetation classification hierarchy. It maps the distribution of each Plant Community Type, Vegetation Class and Vegetation Formation, across all tenures in NSW. 

There are two separate map products.

  • The SVTM extant map shows the distribution of the vegetation classification types within the limits of present-day native vegetation cover, across all of NSW.
  • The SVTM pre-clearing map displays the likely distribution of types prior to the loss of native vegetation cover. The pre-clearing for central NSW is in preparation and due in 2023.

Watch the video: Introduction to the State Vegetation Type Map

The SVTM helps government, business and the community to understand the composition and relative importance of native vegetation in their local area. It helps decision makers to better recognise the different groupings of native vegetation in their area and make more informed land management or conservation investment decisions. 

By using the SVTM, land use planning and on-ground actions are better matched to the characteristics of the vegetation being managed. For example, it  facilitates selection of the best native species mix to rehabilitate disturbed areas.

How do I get the map?

The SVTM is available from a number of sources. Each source offers access to the same maps but with different features depending on viewing and data needs.

The Trees Near Me NSW app provides quick access to view the map using a mobile device or desktop. Download the app from Google Play or the App Store, or access the web site.

Watch the video: Introduction to the Trees Near Me NSW app.

The map can also be viewed on the SEED portal. The SEED portal also gives access to the web map service and the ability to download map products as a GIS package.

Mapping methods overview

The SVTM is created and maintained using a method for regional-scale mapping of Plant Community Types (PCTs). The SVTM includes an extant map and a pre-clearing map. We use the NSW native vegetation extent layer to derive the extant map.

The method uses on-ground survey, aerial and satellite photograph interpretation and landscape models to map the most likely PCTs. While much of the SVTM is regional-scale information, some fine-scale mapping has been selectively included. Further fine-scale mapping will be included in the future, as well as updates and revisions as better information becomes available. If possible, the maps are checked on the ground.

Watch the video: Ecological mapping

Watch the video: Mapping vegetation photo patterns

NSW State Vegetation Type Map: Technical Notes describes the mapping methods.

How reliable are regional-scale vegetation maps?

The overall spatial precision (line work) of the State Vegetation Type Map is about 5 metres. Spatial precision is facilitated by computer-generated feature recognition software.

Aerial photographic interpretation is prepared between 1:10000 and 1:20000 scale.

Attribution accuracy (Plant Community Type) depends on the number of Vegetation Classes being mapped and the quality and number of surveys available for each PCT. 

Some PCTs can be mapped with high overall accuracy which reliably represents their distribution. Others have very little survey information available so accuracy of the map will be limited. Some PCTs have so little survey data that they cannot be mapped at a regional scale.

We are validating the SVTM iteratively as resources become available. Our general aim is to ensure that it averages at least 70% accuracy on the ground.

Keeping maps current

The SVTM is designed to be routinely updated as better information becomes available. Annual map updates are coordinated with the maintenance of PCTs. Visit Integrated BioNet Vegetation Data for NSW

Anyone can contribute to ongoing improvement of the SVTM by suggesting new or better information through the Provide Feedback button in SEED. Watch a video to see how.

Older regional state vegetation maps have now all been incorporated into the new single statewide SVTM. Older regional coverages will still be available from SEED and BioNet until early 2023 before being progressively removed.

Plant Community Type clearing loss estimates

From the SVTM it is estimated that about 53% of the natural native vegetation that originally covered NSW remains today. 

Each PCT in NSW is given an estimate of % clearing loss, an important statistic used in the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (the Scheme). In eastern New South Wales the SVTM is used to calculate the clearing loss of each mapped PCT. Eastern NSW Plant Community Type % Cleared Calculation: Technical Notes describes the methods used to calculate clearing loss.

How do we make sure the maps are prepared in a scientifically rigorous way? 

The Department of Planning and Environment adopts the Scientific Rigour Position Statement (PDF 171KB).  

Peer review and expert guidance are a key requirement of the Statement.  

An independent group of highly regarded and experienced scientists from across Australia and New Zealand were invited to advise DPE during development of the SVTM. The peer review group reviewed methods as well as provided directions for improvements. 

The methods we use are supported by published scientific literature before we use them. In fact, multinomial modelling and feature recognition are both very active fields in science. 

Many of the new analysis and mapping techniques developed for this project will be published for other scientists to benefit from and build upon. 

Survey sites

The mapping team acquires survey site data from established BioNet records such as Systematic Flora Survey data. The mapping team may also conduct surveys to collect floristic site data for upload into BioNet and other landscape-based information that is essential to remote sensing interpretation.


We use sophisticated feature recognition software, originally developed for medical imaging technology to analyse satellite imagery and aerial photography to delineate small patches of vegetation that have the same visual characteristics. This technique is generally known as segmentation because the process divides the image into segments and then automatically draws polygons or lines around each of these areas of similarity according to a defined set of rules. It effectively replicates what humans do when interpreting imagery, but saves considerable time and cost compared with manually drawing lines. 

The whole image is segmented; including non-vegetation features such as water bodies, infrastructure and buildings so that we can construct a pre-clearing native vegetation map as well.

Structural groups

Next, remote sensing experts use their skills and experience to assign each of the segments to a vegetation group called Vegetation Photo Patterns. Patterns include multiple categories that are observable by aerial photographic interpretation, for example: Dry Sclerophyll Forest, Coastal Floodplain Forest, Heathland, Rainforest or Wetland. We use a range of clues to help identify the Patterns; including survey sites, previous mapping and topographic layers like geology and altitude.

Patterns are created for the whole landscape so we can create a pre-clearing PCT map.

Incorporating detailed mapping 

The SVTM has been designed to readily incorporate new information without the need for whole-scale remapping. In fact, the map already includes some existing mapping. These sources have used the same or equivalent vegetation types but may have mapped to higher levels of detail or had more intensive field verification.

Fine-scale vegetation mapping is often undertaken independently and for very specific purposes, including management of Threatened Ecological Communities. We can help other agencies, local government or private consultants to maximise their compatibility for incorporation into the SVTM.

Computer modelling

We use sophisticated computer models to assign each PCT into an appropriate landscape Pattern. The models identify the mostly likely PCTs within each Pattern.

We also ensure that our models undergo rigorous internal validation and cross-checking and we regularly set aside a pool of samples to independently test the model performance.

The extant and pre-clearing maps

We use the NSW native vegetation extent layer to mask out areas that are not native vegetation. This provides us with the extant map of PCTs.

Natural native grasslands are added back into the extant map using another layer called the Seasonal Disturbance Image. This helps us locate natural grasslands which cannot be reliably mapped using aerial photographic interpretation - unlike most other Pattern types.

Derived communities and areas that are not native vegetation; such as pine forests, plantations, weeds, open water, agricultural paddocks, built infrastructure, urban areas, roads, dams and exposed earth are excluded from the extant map.

Expert review

Experienced ecologists review the draft PCT map to check for any issues like ecological inconsistency, gross errors, spatial inconsistencies and discontinuities. Errors and omission are manually corrected by expert landscape ecologists.

NSW State Vegetation Type Map: Technical Notes provides more technical detail about how the map is created.