In the 5 years since SoE 2011, the marine environment has experienced several climate extremes, including one of the strongest La Niña events on record, in 2010–12, and the strongest El Niño event since 1998, in 2015–16 (see
The past 5 years have been characterised by extreme weather events, many with strong impacts on the coast. In 2011, a marine heatwave in Western Australia decimated kelp forests, causing profound changes in ecosystem structure that have yet to be reversed.
Overall, the pressures on air quality remain very similar to those present in 2011: a growing population, greater urban density and increasing car travel, but a slowing in the growth of public transport patronage.
The past 5 years opened with widespread heavy rainfall and extensive flooding in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and closed with some areas having record-breaking temperatures from October to December 2015.
The past 5 years has seen an ongoing relaxation of the effects of the millennium drought and recovery in many areas (the millennium drought in southern Australian lasted from 2000 to 2010, although in some areas it began as early as 1997 and ended as late as 2012).
The changes to Australia’s climate arising from global climate change include increased average surface air temperature, increased incidence of heatwaves, decreased average rainfall in parts of the country, an increase in drought frequency and severity, sea level rise, more extreme daily rainfall
Understanding of the state of biodiversity in Australia is improving for a small number of taxa, although our knowledge is inadequate because limited information is available for the vast majority of taxa, and few long-term monitoring programs are in place.
The impacts of human land use are spread unevenly across the country. Vegetation clearing is concentrated in the long-settled agricultural and coastal zones, where more than 50 per cent of native vegetation has typically been cleared.
Australia’s marine environment encompasses the seabed; the water column; physical, biogeochemical and ecological processes that play an important role in shaping the marine environment; and habitats, communities and species groups, which all interact in highly complex ways.
The physical and chemical components of the Antarctic environment are changing in response to global pressures of human activity and climate change. These changes are occurring against a backdrop of climatic variability.
Australia State of the Environment 2016 has been prepared by independent experts using the best available information to support assessments of environmental condition, pressures, management effectiveness, resilience, risks and outlook.
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We, the authors, acknowledge the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community; we pay respect to them and their cultures and to their elders both past and present.