Field flora survey to give an overall view of ecosystem health

Mount Isa Mines' Environmental team recently carried out field flora surveys to collect data on tree health and vegetation cover across sites within, and outside, our mining lease.

The Environmental team collected field data to examine tree health from three species of Eucalypt: Snappy Gum – Eucalyptus leucophloia; Cloncurry Box – Eucalyptus leucophylla; and River Red Gum – Eucalyptus camaldulensis.

The leaves from these species were carefully and methodically collected, measured and photographed. The photographs are then analysed using image analysis software to determine the percentage of leaf damage which provides an indicator of overall tree health.

One of approximately 400 sheets of the leaf collection samples – The Cloncurry Box leaf collection sample sheet.

The second aspect of the flora survey involved collecting data on vegetation cover, where a 50 metre transect was conducted at ten metre intervals, to ascertain the percentage of bare ground, rocky ground, grass cover, litter, woody debris and forbs.

This data is then examined in correlation with Landsat satellite imagery to determine if there are any 'hot-spots' of potential impact.

Conducted over a five-week period during April and May this year, 55 sample sites were selected within a 15 kilometre radius of the Mount Isa Copper Smelter stack.

The flora methodology was designed specifically for the Mount Isa Mines Environmental Information and Monitoring Program (EIMP). Field data from the EIMP survey is collated into a report to assess any potential long-term environmental effects from emissions on soil, flora and fauna within the prescribed receiving environment.

The 2019 and 2020 survey effort is the third cycle of monitoring, where data collected from this survey will be compared with previous surveys to ascertain any potential impact.

Andrew Koerber, Environmental Advisor for Mount Isa Mines (left) collecting data on tree health across 55 sites within the Mount Isa Mines lease, and (right) carrying out the vegetation cover aspect of the EIMP flora survey.

Andrew Koerber, Environmental Advisor for Mount Isa Mines says the survey complements these previous surveys to give an overall view of our ecosystem's health.

"The flora component is the final stage of the EIMP field work, and has been conducted by a number of personnel from our Environmental team," says Andrew.

"It is a huge effort from our team, and the valuable field data that has been collected will add to the overall picture of the ecosystem's health and any potential impact of mining emissions on the environment."

Flora and fauna surveys are regularly conducted by Mount Isa Mines on a two-year cycle. Other field work conducted in the region includes soil, ant, bird and gecko surveys.