correspondence to David Peters

Background and Acknowledgements

TASFORHAB is a collection of wildlife ‘habitat profiles’. There was a growing urgency in the early days of wood chipping to get a handle on which animals lived in which forest types so that they could be better considered by forest planners. Moreover, an extensive programme of field survey to assess our native timber resource was being undertaken by the industry. The Forestry Commission was already collecting wildlife information (eg Triabunna's fauna transects) and contributing to Parks & Wildlife projects. It was hoped that if we could come up with a simple enough but adequate way to record habitat then this could be incorporated in the timber surveys. And we did.

Each profile represents the heights and covers of all the habitat components (the trees, shrubs and ground cover, rocks, logs, litter and water etc) on a 30 metre radius plot. Signs of wildlife and other interesting things such as fire history and past logging are noted. The habitat profile used Forestry's CFI understorey species groups and PI height-classes. Forestry field staff helped with the development and testing of TASFORHAB and contributed several thousand profiles from timber surveys (from 1981 to 1991). Forest assessors are experts in survey design and knowing where they are on a map. They are good at identifying trees and estimating heights and covers. Like field naturalists, they know the common understorey species and signs of wildlife. Naturally, the profiles appealed to zoologists because they felt that the structure of the habitat was influential and because they did not need to be expert botanists to fill them in. Botanists began using them, enumerating the short prickly species and all the others as well. Biologists and foresters often worked together so we knew both where we were and what we were looking at. Non-forest habitats such as alpine and grasslands were surveyed, as well as areas outside Tasmania. Many non-timber surveys contributed TASFORHAB profiles. Examples of these are: Dry Sclerophyll, Land Systems, Huon Pine, tree ferns, pardalotes, swift parrots and bettongs.

The database grew like Topsy (went 'viral' as we now say) and soon required a computer infrastructure to support it. This began with the CSIRO’s mainframe in Canberra and profiles were punched onto 80-column cardboard cards. In 1991, a major system upgrade, along with the National Forest Inventory and then the RFA, overtook us. TASFORHAB was mined for species records and put out to pasture. It’s now 21 years on and we're having a TASFORHAB exhumation and possibly a revival!


The development of TASFORHAB has required the cooperation and facilities of several state government departments and commissions. These are the Forestry Commission, the State Computer Centre, the Rivers and Water Supply Commission, and the Lands Department. The CSIRO divisions of Maths and Stats and Computing Research (Classifications Section) have made substantial contributions as have private timber companies, especially Associated Pulp and Paper Mills. I would like to acknowledge the special contributions of the following individuals. Eddy Steenbergen (State Government Computer Centre) for creating all the special software associated with the database, including the digitising and plotting routines. Mick Brown and Fred Duncan (National Parks and Wildlife Service) and Terry Johns, Brett Warren and Peter Duckworth (Forestry Commission) for development of the Profile. Rob Lowry (CSIRO Maths and Stats) for creating the 'FOREST' software and Mike Dale and Dennis Ross (CSIRO Computing Research) and David Ratkowsky (CSIRO Maths and Stats) for teaching me about classification.