Richard Newton, Sunshine Coast Council.
Richard Newton completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Science) at USC in 2004, majoring in Marine Ecology and Environmental Management. Since then Richard has worked for the Sunshine Coast Council for more than 16 years in environmental management roles and has been Council’s Ecologist for the past 10 years. Richard sits in the Biodiversity and Waterways team, which is in the Environment and Sustainability Policy Branch of Council and is responsible for the development of strategic policies and strategies delivering biodiversity conservation across the local government area.
Sunshine Coast Council’s biodiversity conservation planning is guided by a “landscape ecology” approach. We seek to maintain and improve ecological functionality and connectivity at a whole-of-landscape scale, by:
Council has developed comprehensive habitat mapping to better understand and inform landscape-scale ecological functionality and connectivity. The method is underpinned by mapping of native vegetation across the local government area from state (regional ecosystem) and Council (LiDAR-derived, fine-scale) sources.
A spatial fragmentation model was applied to the native vegetation layer, which used cut-offs for vegetation patch sizes and internal buffer widths to assign vegetation areas into habitat classes – primarily, “core” or “connecting” habitat areas. This powerful spatial approach captures the degree of consolidation or fragmentation of vegetation areas, which in turn affects habitat functionality, including fauna movement and dispersal, mating potential, roost sites, food resource availability and feeding regimes.
Additional datasets were then interrogated to better characterise those classified habitat areas, including threatened species records, essential habitat and threatened ecological communities and representation within the protected conservation estate.
This approach has given us a comprehensive understanding of the distribution and relationship between different habitat areas, the plants and animals they support and their role in landscape connectivity and habitat functionality. It is critical for our conservation network planning, as well as for the delivery of strategic biodiversity conservation outcomes.