Ecological Health Performance Scorecards

Tracking 8 national park sites with Ecological Health Performance Scorecards.

Scorecards is an ecological health monitoring system.

It is a world-leading initiative that aims to significantly enhance the health of NSW national parks by tracking key ecological indicators and using that data to refine management actions.

For the first time in our history, scorecards will enable the National Parks and Wildlife Service to systematically collect and apply the critical information required to design and deliver effective park management.

Our national parks are extraordinary places. They make up 9.5% of New South Wales across various desert, alpine and coastal ecosystems. Around 800 of the approximately 900 threatened species in New South Wales are found on the national park estate.

A coloured map showing the areas of NSW parks with Ecological Health Performance Scorecards

Starting in 2021, scorecards will be developed across 8 sites that represent the varied ecosystems right across New South Wales.

On-ground monitoring data and park management actions will be fed into scorecards, providing annual snapshots of what is happening with native plants and animals, important ecological processes, and threats to ecological health, such as feral animals and weeds. The first data will be published in 2024, enabling people to track our parks' health online.

Aerial view of the coastline, Royal National Park, with river falling off cliff into the sea'Measuring ecological health, and linking this to our investment in management actions, is the key to delivering effective conservation for our national parks.'
– Atticus Fleming, Deputy Secretary NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Scorecards is designed to support decision-making to deliver, for any given level of resourcing, a reduction in the impacts from feral animals, weeds, fire and other threats, as well as increases in the populations of threatened and declining species and improvements in the functioning of ecological processes.

Scorecards is world-leading – it integrates ecological monitoring with management and financial data. Scorecards will help optimise the ecological return on investment in our national parks and provide greater transparency around improving biodiversity outcomes.

The $10 million pilot program will run over 4 years, supported by a $7 million grant from the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust and philanthropic investment of $1 million.

Biodiversity continues to decline in New South Wales, even in some national parks. National Parks and Wildlife Service manages more than 7 million hectares across New South Wales – from rainforest to alpine country, inland desert to more than 40% of the State's coast – and plays a vital role in protecting our biodiversity.

To this end, we have ensured our State's diverse ecosystems are represented in our first 8 scorecards. Each scorecard will be custom-designed to track its own area's unique key ecological indicators.

Scorecards will help measure the performance of park management programs and inform changes in strategies to ensure National Parks and Wildlife Service funds are being invested where they make the most important conservation gains.

Nowhere in the world is a similar scheme operating that integrates ecological health indicators and financial data into national park decision-making.

Scorecards will help generate the highest possible ecological return on investment.

Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus

Scorecards will drive the largest-ever systematic program of ecological survey and monitoring across NSW national parks, measuring key ecological data for the first time.

The scorecards will provide regular public reports on the health of our national parks, including:

  • populations of key threatened and indicator species (e.g., koalas, brush-tailed rock-wallabies, Wollemi pines)
  • the extent of threats (e.g., the density of feral pigs and goats, the extent of weeds, etc.)
  • fire regimes, including fire severity, frequency and seasonality.

Importantly, the project will provide a consistent, systematic, quantitative data-based approach to measuring ecological health indicators at major national parks.

A scorecard is akin to an ecological balance sheet for a national park.

The program's first 2 scorecards are for 2 iconic sites: the Royal National Park aggregate (Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra) and Kosciuszko National Park.

By late 2025, scorecards will be developed for 8 key NSW national park sites covering around 30% of the national park estate and representing major NSW ecosystems.

The groupings have been chosen to best represent the broader national park system.

  • Greater Blue Mountains
  • Great Divide Northern Forests
  • Kosciuszko – phase 1 – first data online in 2024
  • Myall Lakes
  • Pilliga–Warrumbungles
  • Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra – phase 1 – first data online in 2024
  • Narriearra–Thurloo Downs
  • Macquarie Marshes

A coloured map of New South Wales highlighting the first 2 ecological scorecards in Kosciuszko National Park and Royal National Park, including Heathcote National Park

Once the National Parks and Wildlife Service has scientific scorecard data, it has the master keys to effectively tweak park management decisions, leading to improved conservation outcomes.

Park managers will be able to use scorecard metrics when deciding how to allocate resources to optimise the ecological return on investment in our national parks. For example, management actions will be triggered when metrics indicate deteriorating health.

Additionally, scorecards will implement innovative accounting tools across the organisation to track and report expenditure, and related outputs, by activity and by park.

Understanding the integrated analysis of ecological health outcomes and expenditure is key to improving our national parks' ecological health.

Kayaking near Weemlah Cottage, Royal National Park

Each scorecard will be specifically designed for its given area, and the first 2 will be published online in 2024 for Kosciuszko National Park and the Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra aggregate. The output will include:

  • a scorecard with a summary explaining the data and identifying management actions to be taken to improve outcomes.
  • a scorecard report containing a more detailed analysis of the data and implications for management.

Scorecards may report on:

  • Ecological health indicators:
    • the level of threats, such as the density of feral animal populations, areas occupied by weeds, fire metrics
    • populations of selected species (for example, threatened and declining species and other priority species identified in conceptual models)
    • attributes of ecosystem function.
  • Management activity data:
    • the number of feral animals removed, the level of feral animal control activity
    • the number of hectares of weed control
  • Expenditure data at each national park including a breakdown across different activities, such as fire management, feral animal control and weed control.

In 2024, the first scorecards for Kosciusko National Park and the Royal National Park aggregate will be published online.

By late 2025, scorecards for all 8 national park sites will be published.

Each scorecard will undergo an annual performance review with operational managers and scientists to help ensure the integration of scorecards' findings into park management decision-making, identifying appropriate management responses and building them into on-ground park management activities.

As a result of an annual review, key steps will be outlined to drive more effective and efficient resource allocation in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, delivering improved conservation outcomes and improving the ecological health of our national parks.

NPWS staff work on-ground to conserve and protect unique species, with this team surveying tiny mountain pygmy-possums in Kosciuszko National Park

Scorecards is an exceptional example of the government and scientific community working hand-in-hand for the greater good of our environment.

A program's success starts with its design, and scorecards will be designed with input from the best, combining the breadth and depth of our passionate National Parks and Wildlife Service teams' on-ground experience with renowned hands-on ecological academics.

The Australian National University advised the National Parks and Wildlife Service on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Kosciuszko, while Professor Richard Kingsford and his team from the University of New South Wales advised on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra.

Meet our scorecards consultant

Professor Richard Kingsford of UNSW SydneyProfessor Richard Kingsford PhD, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at UNSW.

'Tracking and reporting on changes in ecosystems is fundamental for our parks, allowing for effective use of our resources to achieve conservation.' – Professor Kingsford

Professor Kingsford is a conservation ecologist who has worked extensively across New South Wales and other parts of Australia. He has expertise on the rivers, wetlands and waterbirds of the Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre Basin.

He leads the University of New South Wales's work in partnership with National Parks and Wildlife Service on the Wild Deserts reintroduction or rewilding project in Sturt National Park and collaborates on the Platypus Conservation Initiative and Red-Listing of Ecosystems. He is a current member of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel.

Professor Kingsford has advised on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra.