State and trends of biodiversity

Component
Summary
Grade
Very poor Poor Good Very good
Confidence
In Grade In Trend
Comparability
To previous years

Overall, bird species populations across much of Australia are in decline. Some areas experience inconsistent trends with some species increasing and some decreasing in the tropical savanna, Brigalow Belt and Tasmania region. Rainforest-dependent species appear to be increasing

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Relatively resilient historically but threatened species make up a large proportion of known species in some areas. Large fluctuations in numbers over the past decade due to climate variation. Several states raise concerns about recent declines, especially in forests and woodlands, and the potential for legacy effects from past pressures that have not yet been seen

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Although native vegetation is largely intact across northern and central Australia, clearing rates have increased in Queensland, including in Cape York Peninsula

Year(s): 
2016
3
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Low
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Native vegetation largely intact throughout much of this area (with a degree of modification in rangelands and high levels of clearing 1997–2005 in some parts of north-east Queensland and the Northern Territory)

Year(s): 
2011
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Rates of land clearing are relatively stable, but land-use changes, including increasing urban development, put significant pressure on the extent of native vegetation

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Historical losses most apparent in these areas (especially eucalypt woodlands, eucalypt open forest, and mallee woodlands and shrublands). Rates of loss are declining but loss still exceeds gains in many areas

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Native vegetation across much of this area is in relatively good condition. However, increases in some pressures, such as altered fire regimes and invasive species, result in declining habitat quality

Year(s): 
2016
3
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Even in areas where vegetation is largely intact there are suggestions of some declining quality

Year(s): 
2011
3
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

All jurisdictions note that habitat disturbance and modification is a key threat to biodiversity

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Very limited wide-scale data in all states and nationally, but strong evidence of decline from case studies in agricultural regions and around urban development

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Plant species appear to be in a relatively good state. However, information on plants in these areas is very limited. High-altitude areas contain relatively high numbers of threatened taxa and threatened ecological communities

Year(s): 
2016
3
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Plants species appear to be largely secure (although all have been affected to some degree by human-induced pressures and most are potentially susceptible to effects of climate change), but there are examples of threatened or declining communities and species

Year(s): 
2011
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

High numbers of threatened plant species are in areas with high population densities and in the intensive agriculture zone. Most jurisdictions report that the state of threatened plant species is poor and worsening, although there are a large number of threatened species whose state and trends are largely unknown

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

There have been substantial historical effects of human activities on plant species. Some pressures are ongoing and the legacies of land clearing will cause declines for some decades. Woodland and grassland species are most at risk

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Very little information is available. It is likely that fungi are in relatively good condition in systems where vegetation remains largely intact

Year(s): 
2016
3
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not comparable

It is likely that fungi, soil microorganisms and other species are minimally degraded but there is very little information and the possibility exists that fungal communities might be impacted by declines in animals that play a role in dispersal of fungal spores

Year(s): 
2011
3
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Low
Confidence (in trend): 
Low
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Information is very limited. Loss of mutualism is likely in areas where vegetation extent and condition is poor. Many fungi associate with other organisms, such as though mycorrhizas and endophytes

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not comparable

Information is limited, but research results on fungi raise major concerns in agricultural lands

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

State and trends of mammals vary across the country. Evidence of ongoing declines is seen for mammals across northern Australia. In southern and eastern Australia, increases in the number of species of conservation concern are seen. All jurisdictions report declines in the status and trends of mammals

Year(s): 
2016
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Declines in a large proportion of species across taxa in all states. Particular concern about mammals in northern Australia. Data collection is still too inadequate in all states and nationally to make a confident statement about which groups are secure and which are not

Year(s): 
2011
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Very limited information and jurisdictional reporting exist for the state and trends of reptiles. Overall, improvement in the status of listed taxa has been limited. The first known extinction of an Australian reptile occurred during the past 5 years

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Very limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Very limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Very limited data, but concerns have been raised about ongoing decline, including in grasslands and woodlands

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Except for a few high-profile species, very limited information and jurisdictional reporting exist for the state and trends of amphibians. However, greater survey effort has revealed that the state of some populations is better than previously thought

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Survey information is very limited but research consistently points towards major declines in many areas

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Very limited information exists for the status and trends on invertebrates. However, the key pressures on Australia's invertebrates are increasing

Year(s): 
2016
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Very limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Low
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Comparable

Survey data are very limited. Research suggests that some groups are likely to be thriving while others decline

Year(s): 
2011
2
Unclear
Confidence (in grade): 
Low
Confidence (in trend): 
Low
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

In Northern Australia, aquatic ecosystems are considered to be in overall good ecological condition, notwithstanding areas of localised poor condition. However, arid and northern aquatic ecosystems are impacted by cattle and feral animals, and invasive aquatic species are present

Year(s): 
2016
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Much of northern and central Australian freshwater ecosystems appear to be in good condition

Year(s): 
2011
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

The state of wetlands in generally poor and rivers in high-intensity land-use areas are also in poor condition. Aquatic ecosystems across much of the Murray–Darling Basin region are in poor ecological condition

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Information on wetlands is limited but there is good evidence of losses and poor health of rivers in large areas of south-eastern and south-western Australia. Freshwater ecosystems appear to be in a poor and declining state in areas that have been heavily developed for agriculture

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Overall condition of the marine environment is good. A number of pressures on marine species and ecosystems are increasing.

Year(s): 
2016
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Marine biodiversity overall is in good condition

Year(s): 
2011
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Some individual species and habitats are in poor condition, including coral reefs, fringing temperate rocky reefs and associated species

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Somewhat comparable

Nationally there are a number of coastal places and areas on the continental shelf and upper slope where the condition of some biodiversity is very poor, as a result of the effects of specific human activities

Year(s): 
2011
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed
Cresswell ID, Murphy H (2016). Biodiversity: State and trends of biodiversity. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/assessment-summary-81-state-and-trends-biodiversity, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812