Pressures affecting the coastal environment

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

Tourism and recreation

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Growing pressure with increased tourist numbers and easier access to remote locations.

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

The worst areas, in the south-west, have suffered serious degradation

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

Oil, gas, and mining impacts

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Pressures are severe but localised, and have increased with the mining boom. A large proportion of coastal pressures arise though transport activities and infrastructure (e.g. ports and shipping) rather than extraction operations.

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

Most pressures are localised. The worst areas are in the south-east and north-west, but impacts remain minor overall. Pressures are expected to increase in the north-west

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Climate and weather

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it strongly impacts the coast.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Increased frequency of severe weather events, including strong tropical cyclones, heatwaves, droughts and floods.

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

Topics

Sea level rise, increasing ocean temperatures and acidity are beginning to have significant impacts in all regions, and these effects are expected to increase. The worst affected areas are in the south-east and south-west, and are irreversibly and very seriously impacted. Changes in ocean current dynamics driven by climate change are also affecting these two regions

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

Topics

Sea level change

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it strongly impacts the coast.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Sea level is rising around Australia, but is variable between years. Expected to become an increasingly significant pressure in the future.

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

Sea level rise, increasing ocean temperatures and acidity are beginning to have significant impacts in all regions, and these effects are expected to increase. The worst affected areas are in the south-east and south-west, and are irreversibly and very seriously impacted. Changes in ocean current dynamics driven by climate change are also affecting these two regions

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

Erosion has been most acute during extreme weather events accompanied by sustained periods of high wave action and storms, and has caused significant damage to coastal properties. Inundation is of most concern around estuaries with low-lying properties.

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

Sediment transport

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Changes in sediment transport are site specific, and often driven by catchment modification or weather events. Closely related to nutrient inputs and occurring for a large proportion of coastal catchments.

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

Substantial changes to sediment input regimes in the south-east

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

Desalination

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

A growing number of desalination plants is increasing pressure near major coastal cities, but the scale of impact is small.

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

Only local impacts have been observed

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

Large variation around Australia, with waterways near urban centres most affected. Sediments in parts of some urbanised and industrialised harbours are amongst the most polluted in the world.

Year(s): 
2016
2
Deteriorating
Confidence (in grade): 
Somewhat adequate
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Nutrient pollution

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • This component has been renamed from 'Nutrient supply and cycling—land based', and moved from Marine to Coasts for 2016, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Improving where management has addressed excessive inputs from agriculture, sewage, and stormwater. Deteriorating elsewhere.

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

Major changes in land-based nutrient inputs in the south-east

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Adequate
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Toxins, pesticides and herbicides

This assessment summary component has changed from 2011.

  • It has been reported on in both the Coasts and Marine environment themes, and is being reported under Pressures, instead of State and Trends.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Point-source toxin inputs have reduced, but diffuse sources are mixed depending on management approach. Significant efforts aim to reduce diffuse sources in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

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

Significant changes in the south-west and south-east

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Water turbidity, transparency and colour

This component has changed since 2011.

  • The component has been assessed in the Coasts theme in addition to the Marine theme, and is being reported on under Pressures instead of State and Trends

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

In poor condition near or downstream of population, industrial, or agricultural centres. Urbanisation and agriculture are the major driver of poor water quality.

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

Substantial changes to inshore water conditions and processes in the south-east

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Increasing pressure originating from population centres, but spread to remote locations by wind and currents. Recent survey found three-quarters of debris to be plastic.

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

There are widespread pressures in all regions

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

Flow regimes

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It is now reported on in the Coasts theme as it is a primarily coastal pressure.
  • Additionally, the component 'Freshwater inflow; surface and groundwater run-off' is now assessed as three separate components: 'flow regimes', 'seawater intrusion' and 'water abstraction'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Spatially variable but of most concern in the south and east. Reduced freshwater flow is associated with drought, upstream modification, and coastal development.

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

Major changes in freshwater inflows in the south-west and south-east

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

Water abstraction

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It is now reported on in the Coasts theme as it is a primarily coastal pressure.
  • Additionally, the component 'Freshwater inflow; surface and groundwater run-off' is now assessed as three separate components: 'flow regimes', 'seawater intrusion' and 'water abstraction'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Historically a critical pressure in the south, but management is improving in most jurisdictions. May become an issue in the north-west if planned developments occur.

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

Major changes in freshwater inflows in the south-west and south-east

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

Seawater intrusion

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It is now reported on in the Coasts theme as it is a primarily coastal pressure.
  • Additionally, the component 'Freshwater inflow; surface and groundwater run-off' is now assessed as three separate components: 'flow regimes', 'seawater intrusion' and 'water abstraction'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Groundwater in some areas is under stress from urban, agricultural and industrial needs, leading to seawater intrusion.

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

Major changes in freshwater inflows in the south-west and south-east

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

Impacts can be severe depending on the frequency and magnitude of dredging, but are generally small in spatial scale.

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

Fishing

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It is being reported on in the Coasts theme in addition to the Marine theme

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Recreational and commercial fishing pressure is widespread, but is considered stable or decreasing in most jurisdictions. Changes observed following the establishment of 'no-take' zones indicate this pressure modifies ecosystem structure.

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

Pressures are decreasing overall, although in the worst areas of the south-east, east and south-west, pressures are widespread and causing serious degradation, and the east continues to degrade

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

Increasing in a number in bays and estuaries. Carry perceived ecological benefits (e.g. fish production), but also impact non-target ecosystem components (e.g. soft-sediment infauna). Spatial scale of impact is currently very limited.

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

Aquaculture

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It has been moved from Marine to Coasts as it is predominantly a coastal pressure.

Increasing pressure as industry grows, but most impacts are small in spatial scale.

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

Pressures continue to increase in the south-east, where the worst areas are already suffering serious degradation

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

Vessel activity & infrastructure

This component has changed from 2011.

  • It has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts, as it is a predominantly coastal pressure.

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Increasing pressure with increasing trade and port development, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia.

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

Pressures are widespread and serious in all regions except the north

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

Invasive species (aquatic)

This component has changed since 2011.

  • 'Pests, introduced species, diseases and algal blooms' has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts
  • 'Pests, introduced species, diseases and algal blooms' has been split into two components: 'Invasive species (aquatic)' and 'Diseases, infestations, fish kills'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Ongoing pressure to the aquaculture industry, and a stochastic threat to estuarine and bay ecosystems. Lack of nationally coordinated monitoring.

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

Overall, there are no regionally or nationally significant changes to ecosystems caused by these factors, although in the worst places there are effects that are significant. The east, south-east and south-west regions are the worst affected, and impacts are major in some areas

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Diseases, infestations, fish kills

This component has changed since 2011.

  • 'Pests, introduced species, diseases and algal blooms' has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts
  • 'Pests, introduced species, diseases and algal blooms' has been split into two components: 'Invasive species (aquatic)' and 'Diseases, infestations, fish kills'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Intermittent pressure, but causes are often unclear.

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

Overall, there are no regionally or nationally significant changes to ecosystems caused by these factors, although in the worst places there are effects that are significant. The east, south-east and south-west regions are the worst affected, and impacts are major in some areas

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Algal blooms

This component has changed since 2011.

  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts
  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been reported under Pressures rather than State and Trends
  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been split into two components: 'Algal blooms' and 'Jellyfish blooms'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Severe impacts on occurrence. No clear evidence of an Australia-wide increase in blooms in major estuaries.

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

Blooms of algae and other species occur regularly, and condition in the south-east region is poor

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Jellyfish blooms

This component has changed since 2011.

  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts
  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been reported under Pressures rather than State and Trends
  • 'Algal blooms, jellyfish blooms' has been split into two components: 'Algal blooms' and 'Jellyfish blooms'

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

No evidence of departure from natural cycles and limited indications of range expansions with strengthening poleward currents.

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

Blooms of algae and other species occur regularly, and condition in the south-east region is poor

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed

Low-oxygen dead zones

This component has changed since 2011.

  • It has been moved from Marine environment to Coasts
  • It has been reported under Pressures rather than State and Trends

The original 2011 summary, grade, trend and confidence levels have been replicated here to assist comparison of changes between reporting cycles.

Potentially increasing in frequency with water quality concerns, but exact cause rarely identified. Spatially and temporally restricted.

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

Each region has one or more examples, and these have major or extreme local impacts, but limited regional consequences

Year(s): 
2011
4
Stable
Confidence (in grade): 
Limited
Confidence (in trend): 
Limited
Comparability (to previous reports): 
Not assessed
Clark GF, Johnston EL (2016). Coasts: Pressures affecting the coastal environment . In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/assessment-summary/coasts/pressures-affecting-coastal-environment, DOI 10.4226/94/58b659bdc758b