Re:ATLAS (Part 1)

Subject: Re:ATLAS (Part 1)
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Sat, 11 Apr 1998 14:05:21 +1000
At 09:04 AM 4/11/98 +1000, Stuart Fairbairn wrote:
>There seem to be quite a few 2.5' squares in NSW. I think the number is
>more than 40000. Cheers Stuart.


This is a point well made. Here are the statistics for each of the
States/Territories and for the whole of Australia:

Region                  No. 2.5? grids  No. 10? grids

Western Australia               153,757         9,610
Queensland                      105,155         6,573
Northern Territory              81,959          5,122
South Australia          59,908         3,744
New South Wales          48,803         3,050
Tasmania                          4,128           258
ACT                         146            10

Australia-wide          453,856         28,367

As little as a few weeks ago some scientists were suggesting that the bird
atlas be conducted on a 100 x 100 m grid block basis. Thankfully, this idea
is no longer being pushed. Apart from the obvious biases and difficulties
associated with surveying birds on such a small scale, there would be
approximately 768,230,000 grid blocks to be atlassed!

The challenge that has faced all of us in designing an atlas project has
been to maximise the value of the data collected for conservation and
scientific purposes, as well as making it achievable and enjoyable to
atlassers. In other words, recognise the limitations of the data and the
limitations and aspirations of the atlassers of project staff.

On the one hand, scientists in the Commonwealth and State/Territory
wildlife agencies have been saying that bird species lists on a grid block
scale, be it  one-degree, 10? or 2.5? scale is too coarse to be of any or
much use to them. For instance, they would like to know of precise
locations of threatened bird species and their habitat preferences, rather
than knowing that they are located somewhere within a region of several 10s
or 100s of square kilometres. Many of these scientists are thus saying that
point site surveys (as in the ABC Project), rather than grid block surveys
are more important.

On the other hand, I?m also getting the very clear message from potential
atlassers that they would not take part in a project that is too difficult
and not enjoyable or meaningful.

Therefore, two atlas projects will be proposed at the atlas planning
workshop next weekend:

1.  The General Bird Atlas Project.

Bird atlassing will be carried out at a 2.5? or 10? grid block level
(instead of 10? or one-degree blocks, as in the first atlas). This may be
difficult to achieve in the remoter areas of Australia, but it is worth
having a go. After all, there were many sceptics at the start of the first
atlas project who felt that nationwide coverage would not be achieved. If
this proves to be too ambitious, then we can revert back to the scales used
in the first atlas.

It will be important to have a GPS, though. If during a grid block survey,
you encounter a threatened bird species, it will be important to record its
precise location.

Atlassers will also be required to record general habitat types and
land-uses of the areas that they survey. This will be really simple and
will probably be a matter of ticking one or a few boxes on the back of your
bird atlas sheet.

2.  The Intensive Bird Atlas Project.

The Commonwealth Government has divided the Australian continent into 80
bioregions. It is hoped that the keener atlassers can survey bird
populations at point locations in each of these regions. Some of these
locations will be specific Bushcare sites, and so will be designated by
land managers rather than atlassers. It is also hoped that these sites can
be revisited seasonally (4 times per year). Each atlas survey will be for a
fixed duration.

The Commonwealth Government has asked Birds Australia to try and atlas
birds in at least 100 point sites in each of the 80 bioregions. While this
should be achievable in the bioregions in south-eastern and south-western
Australia, I don?t think it will work in the remoter bioregions (e.g.
Little Sandy Desert, Great Victoria Desert, etc.). But I will be happy to
be proven wrong: this is certainly a challenge that I hope atlassers will
take up.

As in the General Bird Atlas, precise location co-ordinates and habitat
data will be collected at each point site.

Non of these ideas is yet set in concrete: the cement has been applied to
the bricks and the bricks have been arranged to make a wall, but the cement
has not yet dried! The designs will be discussed at the atlas planning
workshop and may well be refined or rejected. I would certainly like to
hear the views of Birding-Aussers to these ideas over the next few days.

Kind regards,

Dr Stephen Ambrose
Research Manager

Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union)
Australian Bird Research Centre
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East,
VIC   3123.

Tel:    +61 3 9882 2622
Fax:    +61 3 9882 2677
1997 Australian Bird Research Directory is on Birds Australia's
home page: <>.

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