Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Native forestry

Threatened Ecological Communities Mapping

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recently completed a three-year Threatened Ecological Community (TEC) Mapping Project, designed to inform improvements in the recognition, management and regulation of TECs in native forestry areas in NSW.

TEC is the collective term for ecological communities – a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms – that are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act).

The TEC mapping project was funded by a Waste and Environment Levy Envelope grant and was administered by the NSW Environmental Trust.

The project aimed to identify those TECs most likely to be present in harvest areas and impacted by forestry activities, and to develop an agreed interpretation and methodology to identify, classify and map TECs on State Forests within a defined study area.

View the TEC maps

The TEC maps can be viewed online. For instructions on how to use the map viewer, see the Native Forestry Map Viewer Guide.

To download the spatial datasets, please visit our open data portal  and search using the keyword `TEC'.

Development of the TEC maps

The project assessed 18 TECs across a coastal study area of 1.4 million hectares using extensive field survey, rigorous quantitative data analysis and high resolution aerial photograph interpretation. The 18 TECs were identified through a risk assessment process, which was applied to focus mapping efforts on higher priority communities in a regulatory and forestry context.

For 13 of the TECs, high resolution operational maps have been produced that describe the TEC distribution in the state forest study area. For three** TECs, indicative maps were produced from statistical models that predicted TEC distributions. Following a thorough assessment, a further three TECs have been confirmed absent from the study area. These results are summarised in the table below.

A covering report (PDF 1.3MB) and a series of detailed technical reports for each TEC assessed have been prepared to describe the assessment process, decision pathways, and project findings.

Assessed Threatened Ecological Communities (TEC)

TECOperational mapIndicative mapKeyArea (Ha)
Lowland rainforest (PDF 8.8MB) Y   N 14,036
Subtropical coastal floodplain forest (PDF 9.9MB) Y   Y 11,050
Riverflat eucalypt forest on floodplains (south) and (north) (PDF 6.3MB) Y   Y (sth) 4017
Grey box - grey gum wet sclerophyll forest (PDF 5.4MB) Y Y** Y 2936
Montane peatlands and swamps (PDF 3.5MB) Y   N 1792
Lowland grassy woodland (PDF 5.8MB) N Y Y 1535
Swamp sclerophyll forest on coastal floodplains (south and north) (PDF 4.1MB)     Y (sth) 1131
White gum moist forest (PDF 5.3MB) N Y Y 980
Tablelands snow gum, black sallee, candlebark and ribbon gum grassy woodland (PDF 4.1MB) Y   Y 902
Lowland rainforest on floodplain (PDF 8.8MB) Y   N 683
Swamp oak floodplain forest (south and north) (PDF 4MB) Y   Y (sth) 284
McKies stringybark /blackbutt open forest (PDF 2.9MB) Y   N 201
Coastal saltmarsh on floodplains (PDF 3.6MB) Y   N 99
Brogo wet vine forest (PDF 5.8MB) Y   N 17
Dry rainforest of the south east forests (PDF 5.8MB) Y   N 0.5
Bangalay sand forest (PDF 2.9MB) absent   N 0
Littoral rainforest (PDF 8.8MB) absent (Nth)*   N 0
Milton Ulladulla subtropical rainforest (PDF 8.8MB) absent   N 0

*confirmed absent from northern study area, southern rainforest mapping underway in southern study area
** Grey box - grey gum wet sclerophyll forest TEC is mapped as indicative for a small part of its range

TECs are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPWS Act) and any harm to TECs is prohibited during all forestry operations. The current Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) do not authorise any harm to TECs.

The NSW Government is considering how the mapping could be used as part of the Coastal IFOA remake. The specific requirements for the protection of TECs under a remade coastal IFOA are still being developed. The public will have an opportunity to comment on these when the coastal IFOA is placed on public exhibition in 2017.

Frequently asked questions

What is a TEC?

An ecological community is a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms that interact in a unique habitat. Threatened ecological community (TEC) is the collective term for ecological communities that are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act). There are presently 104 TECs listed in the Schedules of the TSC Act.

An ecological community is considered threatened if there is a significant decline in its distribution or ecological function. This could include a change in community structure or composition, disruption of ecological processes, invasion by exotic species, or habitat degradation or fragmentation.

While some of the individual plants that form a TEC may be common, it is their occurrence together in a specific community, or place in the landscape, that leads to their listing in this instance. Many TEC’s are listed because they were once widespread in the landscape, but are now more limited due to urban and agricultural development, while other TEC’s are naturally rare in their occurrence.

Why are TECs important?

TECs are important because of their unique combination of native biodiversity and vital habitat qualities, and for the ecosystem services they provide. Ecological communities provide natural management of clean air, water, provide nutrients for the soil, protection against erosion and salinity and a healthy environment for the group’s species. Their natural values also contribute to the tourism and recreation industries and the productivity of farmlands and fisheries. In addition, many ecological communities have strong cultural significance for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Are TECs protected during forestry operations?

TECs are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and any harm to TECs is prohibited during all forestry operations in NSW. The current Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs) do not authorise any harm to TECs. FCNSW are required to manage forestry operations to ensure that harm does not take place.

How were the TECs mapped?

The TEC mapping project used extensive field survey and rigorous quantitative data analysis to build a set of high resolution digital maps. Maps were constructed based on agreed interpretations, principles and methods that were agreed by a panel of experts and NSW Government agencies. This assessment process is documented in the detailed technical reports.

Who was involved in the TEC mapping project?

The TEC mapping project was initiated by the EPA Forestry Branch in consultation with Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW), and overseen by the Director Forestry, EPA.

All scientific, analytical, methodological and mapping aspects of the TEC mapping project were completed by the Office of Environment and Heritage Native Vegetation Information Science Branch. Independent specialist consultancies were also engaged to deliver key aspects of the work. The EPA convened a TEC Project Reference Panel of regional experts to provide technical input and support project delivery. Over the life of the project, there has been ongoing engagement with the NSW Scientific Committee.

Project coordination, communication, stakeholder engagement, reporting and policy direction was managed by the EPA Forestry Branch.

How will the maps be used?

The maps will immediately be used by FCNSW and the EPA for the identification, protection and regulation of TECs on State forest. This will be undertaken with a memorandum of understanding (PDF 504KB).

In undertaking forestry operations, FCNSW must still comply with the strict liability offences for harming TECs set in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

TEC’s are often difficult to identify in the field, where they can be very similar to the surrounding forest. As the descriptions of TECs are complex and do not have mapped extents, both FCNSW and EPA have had significant challenges in accurately and consistently identifying and managing TEC’s to date.

The maps increase the certainty around the location of TECs, and bring a much higher standard of transparency to the management and regulation of forestry in areas where TECs occur. Importantly, the maps will provide a robust and consistent evidence base for decision making, planning and regulation.

It is expected that the maps will eventually be used to definitively identify TECs for the purpose of conducting forestry operations in accordance with the remade coastal IFOA. The specific requirements for TEC management under the Coastal IFOA are still being prepared, and the public will have opportunity to comment on this when a draft Coastal IFOA is put out for public consultation.

Will the Coastal IFOA remake use the maps?

The specific requirements for the protection of TECs under the new coastal IFOA are still being developed. The public will have an opportunity to comment on these when the coastal IFOA is placed on public exhibition in 2017.

Will the maps impact on the current timber supply?

TECs, as listed by the NSW Scientific Committee, are not available for timber harvesting as the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 prohibits the picking or harming of all TECs. The current IFOAs do not authorise any forestry operations within TECs. As such the 18 TEC’s mapped by the EPA continue to be unavailable for timber production. Most of these TECs have been unavailable for harvesting for over a decade.

As TEC’s have never been mapped before, their impact on timber availability has not been known by FCNSW.  The NSW Government will now be able to quantify the impact of TEC’s on timber availability from the State forests estate. This mapping will enable future modelling of wood supply to reflect the improved understanding of where TECs occur, and provide for better planning for the industry and improved conservation outcomes for TECs.

What does this mean for private land?

The TEC mapping program only assessed the location and extent of TECs on State Forest. The EPA will be considering expanding the TEC mapping into the future, including consideration of private lands that could be subject to private native forestry.

The TEC mapping project has improved our understanding of interpreting scientific committee determinations and identifying TECs. This will greatly assist in providing improved assistance and advice in identifying TECs on other tenures of land.

Page last updated: 05 May 2017