National Park 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 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 9.3% 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.

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

Scorecards map - 8 sites

On-ground monitoring data and park management actions will be fed into Scorecards, providing ongoing 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 from late 2022, enabling people to track our park's 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 deliver, for any given level of resourcing, a reduction in the impacts from feral animals, weed, 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 four 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 NPWS funds are being invested where they make most important conservation gains.

Nowhere in the world is there a similar scheme operating which 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, goats, the extent of weeds etc.)
  • whether fire regimes are impacting health.

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 will be designed for 2 iconic sites: the Royal National Park aggregate (Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra) and Kosciuszko National Park.

Over the next 4 years, 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 one – first data online late 2022
  • Myall Lakes
  • The Pilliga
  • Royal–Heathcote–Garawarra – phase 1 – first data online late 2022
  • Sturt–Narriearra
  • Macquarie Marshes
Scorecards map - First 2

Once 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 making decisions around allocating resources to optimise the ecological return on investment in our national parks. For example, when metrics indicate deteriorating health, applicable management actions will be triggered.

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 late 2022 for Kosciuszko and Royal national parks. 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 late 2022, the first Scorecards for Kosciusko National Park and the Royal National Park aggregate will be published online.

By late 2024, 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 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 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-glove 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 NPWS teams' on-ground experience with two renowned hands-on ecological academics.

Professor David Lindenmayer AO and his team from the Australian National University will advise 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 will advise on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Royal-Heathcote-Garawarra.

Meet our Scorecards consultants

Professor David Lindenmayer of Australian National UniversityProfessor David Lindenmayer AO
Australian National University, Canberra

"This important initiative will help NSW Parks to become the best monitored and managed anywhere in the world." – Professor Lindenmayer

Professor Lindenmayer is a world-leading expert in forest ecology and resource management, conservation science and biodiversity conservation. He currently runs five large-scale, long-term research programs in south-eastern Australia.

He has published 1315 scientific articles including 820 peer-reviewed papers in international scientific journals, as well as 47 books, and has a Google Scholar H-Index of 132. He is among the world's most productive and highly cited scientists, particularly in forest ecology and conservation biology. In 2020, The Australian listed him as the nation's leading conservation and biodiversity expert.

Professor Lindenmayer will advise on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Kosciuszko National Park.

 

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 UNSW's work in partnership with NPWS 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 will advise on the development of an ecological health monitoring plan for Royal-Heathcote-Garawarra.