Classified vegetation

Read for a summary of the different classified vegetation types in Australia

This page will help you identify the dominant type of vegetation on your property in accordance with the vegetation categories defined in AS 3959:2018.

There are seven vegetation classifications in Australia. These are: Forest, Woodland, Shrubland, Scrub, Mallee/Mulga, Rainforest, and Grassland. Each of these categories includes several sub-types. For example, a Forest might be a tall open-forest, a tall closed-forest, or a low open-forest. Knowing the dominate vegetation type at your location (in addition to your property’s Fire Danger Index and Slope) will allow you to calculate Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) contours around your property. These contours will help you to site, design, and manage your home in accordance with the severity of the bushfire attack that you might experience at your location.

The table below provides a quick summary of the seven vegetation classifications in Australia and their different sub-types. Keep reading below for a simple method of identifying the vegetation type that best applies at your property.

Vegetation classifications

Classified vegetation Vegetation type
A) Forest

Forests include trees that are 10-30 metres tall, with 30 to 70% coverage. Forests are dominated by eucalypts of varying heights, with grassy groundcover and shrubs in the mid-layers. This vegetation type includes eucalypt and pine plantations.
Forest illustration
  • Tall open forest
  • Tall woodland
  • Open woodland
  • Low open forest
  • Pine plantation
B) Woodland

Woodlands include trees that are 10-30 metres tall, with 10 to 30% coverage. Woodlands are dominated by eucalypts or callistris’ (cypress pine), and include a prominent grassy understorey. Woodlands do not have a consistent mid-layer, although they may contain isolated shrubs.
Woodland illustration
  • Woodland
  • Low woodland
C) Shrubland

Shrubland is dominated by short (less than 2 meters tall) shrubs, with occasional grassy understories. Shrublands are common in shallow soils and in regions with poor soil fertility.
Shrubland illustration
  • Closed (low) heath
  • Open heath
  • Low shrubland
D) Scrub

Scrub is dominated by tall shrubs (such as banksia and melaleuca), with an almost continuous understory and a short mid-layer.
Scrub illustration
  • Closed scrub (tall heath)
  • Open scrub
E) Mallee/Mulga

Mallee and Mulga are relatively short multi-stemmed trees with a spares canopy. Their understories often feature areas of dense shrub or sparse grasses. Mallee/Mulga is common in arid and semi-arid (excluding rangelands) areas.
Mallee/Mulga illustration
  • Tall shrubland
F) Rainforest

Rainforests include relatively tall trees with a dense canopy (more than 90% foliage cover). They tend to feature thick understories and dense mid-layers. Rainforest are typified by their lush, green foliage and high moisture content (when under non-drought conditions).
Rainforest illustration
  • Tall closed forest
  • Closed forest
  • Low closed forest
G) Grassland

Grasslands may contain any combination of grasses, shrubs, or trees, provided that the overstory is sparse or patchy (with less than 10% overall coverage). Grasslands includes pastures and cropland.
Grassland illustration
  • Open woodland
  • Open shrubland
  • Hummock grassland
  • Tussock grassland
  • Open tussock
  • Sown pasture
  • Open herb field

The vegetation classification system is based on a national system developed by R. Specht (Specht, 1970). Some states and territories have developed their own systems for vegetation classification, which may vary in extent or description to those provided here. As always, make sure to check what applies at your location. For more information, see AS 3959:2018

How to identify vegetation type

The table below provides a simple method for identifying the vegetation type that best applies to your property, according to the percentage of foliage cover and the height of the vegetation. Please note that when dealing with mixed vegetation types, AS 3959:2018 specifies that each type should be classified and assessed separately. Also note that the table does not specify Grassland vegetation types. These vegetation classifications should be relatively easy to identify in most situations. For guidance, we recommend contacting your local fire agency.

Coverage of the tallest plant layer
Type and height of the tallest plant layer Dense (70-100%) Mid-dense (30-70%) Sparse (10-30%) Very sparse (<10%)
Trees (>30m) Tall closed-forest Tall open-forest Tall woodland Tall open-woodland
Trees (10-30m) Closed forest Open forest Woodland Open woodland
Trees (5-10m) Low closed-forest Low open-forest Low woodland Low open-woodland
Shrubs (2-8m) Closed scrub Open scrub Tall shrubland Tall open-shrubland
Shrubs (0-2m) Closed heath Open heath Low shrubland Low open-shrubland