This report includes the clearing of both woody and non woody vegetation structural types:
- Woody vegetation is plants (including saplings or shrubs) that produce wood as their primary structural tissue. It is typically trees, shrubs or woody vines and is usually perennial. The removal of these tree canopies is detectable in satellite imagery.
- Non woody vegetation includes understorey plants and groundcover plants (herbaceous vegetation like grasses, herbs and forbs) that have been relatively undisturbed since 1990, based on visual cues and time series analysis of remotely sensed images.
The area of vegetation cleared is detected through automated and manual interpretation of differences between Sentinel-2 satellite images captured during summer each year. Satellite images are selected as close as possible to 1 January each year. The images must have a clear view of the ground and not be impacted by smoke or cloud cover.
Image interpreters assign a replacement landcover class that is indicative of the intended purpose of the change. The broad landcover classes are clearing for agriculture, forestry and infrastructure activities.
Long-term trends in woody vegetation clearing (1988 to present) have been available since 2006 through the Statewide Landcover and Tree Study (SLATS) program. Long-term trends in woody vegetation clearing are reported by converting the clearing area mapped in each image to an annual rate to accommodate variability caused by the different capture dates. This annualisation allows meaningful comparison of clearing between large regions of the state. However, using rates becomes less meaningful when examining much smaller areas, for example, clearing associated with individual approval areas.
The NSW Vegetation Clearing Report uses absolute hectares rather than reporting on annualised rates and only includes detected native forestry harvesting, not plantation harvesting. For information on annualised rates of plantation harvesting and native forestry harvesting, see long term trends in woody vegetation clearing.
Non woody vegetation clearing has been captured through the Non Woody Landcover Disturbance Program (NWD) since 2018. Non woody clearing can be more difficult to detect than woody clearing, as full conversion of undisturbed areas to exotic pastures or cropping can take more than 12 months. Most non woody vegetation clearing can be confidently attributed in the year of mapping. Some areas of disturbance detected may be flagged for confirmation in the following mapping year. Consequently, the annual report makes an adjustment to the non woody clearing figure of the previous year.
Clearing figures generated for each year may be updated to reflect improved processing methods, data availability, or changed administrative boundaries.
Comparing vegetation clearing statewide and on Category 2 regulated land
New South Wales covers 80 million hectares (ha), of which around 47 million hectares or 59% are Category 2 regulated land (i.e. lands regulated by the Local Land Services Act 2013 (LLS Act) and the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018, referred to here as the Land Management Code).
The Local Land Services Act outlines 2 main land categories and land excluded from regulation under the Act. Land categories set out the pathways available for landholders of regulated land to obtain authorisation to clear native vegetation.
Category 1 is exempt land where native vegetation can be cleared without approval from Local Land Services. Category 2 regulated land consists of either:
- land that may require authorisations under the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 (referred to here as the Land Management Code)
- land considered sensitive or vulnerable, and therefore, any vegetation clearing is restricted.
All vegetation clearing across the landscape is captured in statewide reporting, but a subset falls within Category 2 regulated land, including vulnerable and sensitive land (shown as a red polygon) as defined by the Local Land Services Act 2013.
The Native Vegetation Regulatory Map displays land categories across New South Wales. For more information, see map categories.