Pressures affecting biodiversity

Component
Summary
Grade
Very high impact High impact Low impact Very low impact
Confidence
In Grade In Trend
Comparability
To previous years

Jurisdictional reports note extreme weather—including fire, drought, cyclones and flood—as having increasingly pervasive impacts on biodiversity

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

Drought has been a major pressure on all components of biodiversity in all jurisdictions over the past decade. The effects differ with location and types of biota. Some mobile species move while less mobile ones have suffered decreases in numbers. It is difficult to assess the long-term implications of the past decade of climate variability

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

Among threatened taxa, amphibians are particularly vulnerable to climate change

Year(s): 
2016
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Harvesting impacts a significant portion of threatened terrestrial plant species. Harvesting of terrestrial mammals is regulated and impacts are generally limited to a few terrestrial species

Year(s): 
2016
3
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not comparable

Direct harvesting of wildlife around Australia is well regulated and has a minor affect on biodiversity. However, the average per-person consumption of natural resources overall by Australians is one of the highest in the world, and several analyses suggest that consumption will need to be reduced considerably if biodiversity and other resources are to be sustained as Australia’s population grows

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

Impacts of hunting and harvesting have been documented for a few marine fish and mammal species, and for wetland birds

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

Clearing rates have increased in Queensland since 2011, including significant increases in remnant vegetation clearing

Year(s): 
2016
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Clearing rates have stabilised; however, all jurisdictions note clearing and fragmentation as key ongoing threats. Half of all EPBC Act−listed species are considered to be at risk from habitat fragmentation

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

Past clearing for agriculture and urban development has been a major driver of biodiversity decline around Australia. Impacts of urban development per capita appears to be falling, but overall impact is growing or stable as the population has been growing. Extent of land clearing is declining but the legacy of past clearing means that impacts have continued to rise and will do so for some time. The upward arrow reflects a general reduction in the clearing of land in recent years and therefore a trend towards reducing the pressure from recent practices

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

Pest plants, animals and pathogens have been identified by every state and territory as a key threat to biodiversity generally, and to threatened species specifically

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

All jurisdictions report invasive species and pathogens as one of the most significant current and future problems, potentially exacerbated by climate change. There are very limited data on which to assess whether efforts to address problems are having an impact

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

Invasive aquatic species are having major impacts on aquatic biodiversity; in particular, invasive fish influence and are indicators of aquatic system health

Year(s): 
2016
1
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Somewhat adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Point-source pollution is mostly mitigated by regulations, and no new evidence is available to suggest that point-source pollution is a high or increasing pressure

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

Topics

Regulations are frequently effective for point source pollution, but this is still listed as a source of concern in state and territory SoE reports. Biodiversity is highly susceptible to major pollution events, like oil spills, especially when they occur near areas of unique diversity

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

Topics

Pollution pressure from diffuse sources remains high, and impacts on terrestrial and aquatic systems persist. Marine debris and micropollutants are of increasing concern

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

Topics

Pollution pressures range from local (point source) to national and global (e.g. carbon pollution and ocean acidification). Most jurisdictions express concern about pollution, especially from urban and agricultural sources. The grade is based on the impacts of broadscale pollution, such as accumulation of atmospheric carbon and ocean acidification

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

Topics

Grazing in the extensive land-use zone of Australia is considered a major threat to biodiversity. Along with other management changes, it is considered a key pressure on northern Australian mammal populations

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

Grazing continues to be a major pressure on biodiversity, especially in the rangelands and in combination with drought and fire. There is little information to allow assessment of whether new approaches to grazing are having a significant impact yet

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

Altered fire regimes are considered a major threat to mammal and bird species, and a significant pressure on EPBC Act−listed species

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

Effects have been Australia-wide, they have been particularly significant in northern savannas and fire-sensitive and fire-dependent communities (e.g. monsoon vine thickets)

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

River regulation and water resource development has a negative impact on some waterbird populations. This pressure is particularly prevalent in the Murray–Darling Basin in south-east Australia

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

There have been major effects on wetlands and river health. Loss of terrestrial vegetation due to salinity has been considerable. Actions to address known issues have not had time to show outcomes. The problems have been worst in the most developed catchments

Year(s): 
2011
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed
Cresswell ID, Murphy H (2016). Biodiversity: Pressures affecting biodiversity. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/assessment-summary-82-pressures-affecting-biodiversity, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812