Skip to main content
padlock icon - secure page this page is secure

Observer variation in field assessments of vegetation condition: Implications for biodiversity conservation

Buy Article:

$43.00 + tax (Refund Policy)


Uncertainty in assessments of vegetation condition that are used to inform land management and planning decisions for biodiversity conservation in Australia may lead to unexpected outcomes, including loss of biodiversity. This study investigates observer error in field estimates of vegetation attributes, one component of uncertainty in assessments of vegetation condition. Ten observers conducted vegetation condition assessments using two assessment protocols (BioMetric and Habitat Hectares) on 20 sites in a grassy woodland community. Observers’ estimates varied substantially across multiple scoring categories for all vegetation attributes on almost all sites. Across all sites, the average coefficient of variation in total vegetation condition scores was 15–18% for both protocols, with a maximum of 60%. The primary cause of variation in total vegetation condition scores was random error in raw estimates of vegetation attributes, although sensitivity of some highly weighted attributes to error exacerbated variation in some cases. Observers generally agreed on the total scores and ranks of highly degraded (pasture) sites, but were less consistent on other sites. Rank correlations between pairs of observers were stronger for Habitat Hectares, suggesting BioMetric may be slightly more sensitive to observer error. It is recommended that: (i) research is undertaken into methods for reducing observer error; (ii) review is made of the sensitivity of index scoring structures to observer error; (iii) field observers estimate uncertainty around point estimates of vegetation condition; and, (iv) decision-makers explicitly incorporate uncertainty into the decision-making processes and aim for outcomes that are robust to this uncertainty.
No References
No Citations
No Supplementary Data
No Article Media
No Metrics

Keywords: BioMetric; Habitat Hectares; measurement error; offsets; parameter estimation uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2009

  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more