Ellie Baker
Ellie Baker

Case Study:

Providing data insights critical to ecosystem restoration on Lord Howe Island

 

THE CUSTOMER

Lord Howe Island Board

Lord Howe Island Oceanic Island Group is a World Heritage Property located 781km north-east of Sydney, Australia. It is recognised for its outstanding universal values and unique biota supporting a high level of endemic and threatened species; in both the marine and terrestrial environments.

The LHI Board is the administrative jurisdiction of LHI, responsible for provision of services for a resident community of 350 people and responsible for the care and protection of the islands environment. The LHIB reports to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the islands conservation outlook and management.

The LHI Board along with the community have been successful at reversing the trend of ecosystem decline and aiding the recovery of endangered species. This has mostly involved the eradication of invasive species (10 weeds – limited in extent, pigs, goats, myrtle rust and recently rodents). With $13M invested since 2004 the abundance of ten - more widespread and ecosystem destructive weeds has be depleted island scale; with the Weed Eradication Program (WEP) reaching midpoint of a projected 30yr period.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Managing Weeds Post Rodent Eradication

Managing the cascade effect of residual weeds in an environment recently eradicated of rodents poses a new time driven challenge for the Lord Howe Island (LHI) Board, Weed Eradication Program.

The WEP has depleted priority weed infestations by 90% in the past 15 years; with teams systematically grid searching and geo-referencing each weed removed. The challenge now is to efficiently detect remote and residual populations of weeds such as Ground Asparagus to prevent their spread. Steep cliffs and rugged terrain pose access constraints but a comprehensive, full-island assessment is critical to achieve eradication.

THE SOLUTION

The LHI Board has approached Dendra Systems to find technical solutions to detect residual weeds. Dendra's UAVs have captured ultra high resolution imagery across the priority areas of Oceanic Rainforest on LHI. Afterwards, Dendra's AI-based technology has transformed this imagery into insights to accurately detect, quantify, and geotag priority weed species.

All the information will be accessed through MyDendra, a comprehensive data visualisation and analytics portal and will provide the LHI Board with a validated plan to enable ‘rapid response’ to control residual weed populations. This will save money, time, effort and ultimately advance the eradication of weeds. Weed monitoring will be rapid, island - scalable and efficient.

THE IMPACTScreenshot 2021-03-02 at 14.23.24

 

With Dendra Systems the LHI Board has the opportunity to efficiently detect and accelerate the eradication of priority invasive weeds. Dendra Systems will accurately identify, locate, and quantify known, new, and emerging weed risks; important in an environment freed of rodents. 
By using a comprehensive method to map plant communities across all terrain from the steep cliffs to the more undulating slopes; down to every single leaf, they are able to provide landscape scale aerial assessment with data analytics that will take just three months to detect priority weeds, replacing a process which could take years.

Summary

- Full-island analysis takes months not years.

- Geotagged species identification means analysis easily translates to action.

- Species quantification makes clear the scale of ecosystem threats and restoration progress.

- Automated data collection reduces personnel risks over difficult terrain.

- Centralised and accessible insight portal makes monitoring over time easy and enables time trend analysis, a crucial facet of ecosystem restoration.

"LHI is a very beautiful place, rightly recognised as one of the last remaining paradises on earth that is well worth protecting. Dendra Systems is bringing new technology to the island that will improve the success of the LHI Weed Eradication Program. Together we are working on a strategy to ensure the exceptional island ecosystems and World Heritage values are preserved long term and we are confident that Dendra's assistance will helps us to achieve our goal."

- Sue Bower, Team Leader Flora/ Weeds Biosecurity -  Lord Howe Island Board

THE STRATEGY

LHI Case study phases

The LHI project will be carried out in three phases (mainland trial, island trial, full island).

The first phase was critical to determine feasibility of an automated assessment on LHI by sampling surrogate weed species on six mainland sites with similar conditions to LHI, including cliff lines.

 

THE RESULTS

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Phase 1 was completed in five weeks with extraordinary results!

- Captured datasets across six Australian Mainland sites (larger than original scope).

- Validated remote sensing data across six mainland ecosystems including cliff lines.

- Collecting remote sensing data along cliff lines.

- Validated detection, quantification and location of four target weed species (Bitou Bush, Cherry Guava, Ground Asparagus and Sweet Pittosporum) with 85-90% high level confidence; and two additional weed species (Ochna and Umbrella Tree). 

- Access to MyDendra, a portal displaying dashboards and reports with key insights including, high resolution imagery of the project site, location of priority weed species, species metrics charts and ground truth photo points amongst many more.

Concluded that a full Lord Howe Island invasive and native plant species assessment is viable and would take only 3 months.

The successful outcomes of Phase 1 have enabled the initiation of of Phase 2 of the project, which entails the aerial survey of large sections of Lord Howe Island, and from this, an ecosystem assessment of priority areas on LHI.

 

NSW gov  This project has been assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust.