Availability of information

2011

Australia’s states and territories have the primary responsibility for biodiversity management, and for monitoring the state and trends in biodiversity in their jurisdictions. In this assessment, we have recognised the role of jurisdictional SoE reports in informing the state and trends in biodiversity nationally. The jurisdictional reports differ from one another in terms of indicators used, approaches taken, and styles and periods of reporting; we have not sought to standardise these reports. We have also drawn on national-level assessments where they are available, and on the scientific literature where relevant.

Australia’s capacity to report against biodiversity state and trends was assessed by the recent Assessment of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity15 (Table 8.3). As pointed out in successive SoE reports at both state and territory levels and nationally for over a decade, information on individual species, groups of species and habitat quality remains very poor in general, although information on the extent of broad vegetation types is good in many respects and improving.

Table 8.3 Capacity to report on biodiversity state and trends
Aspect of biodiversity (indicator) Capacity to reporta
Species and communities
(Trends in the conservation status of species and ecological communities) Poor for national trends
Good at case study level
Moderate at national level for numbers of threatened taxa and ecological communities
Average for listing and recovery plan statistics
Terrestrial ecosystems
(The extent and distribution of native vegetation) Good nationally for extentb
Moderate nationally for type
(Change in the extent and distribution of native vegetation) Poor nationally
Good nationally for forest (Kyoto definition)
Good in Queensland for woody vegetation
Good in Victoria for native vegetation cover
(Status and trends in native vegetations condition) Good in Victoria
In areas where native vegetation is monitored, there is evidence of decline in condition
Aquatic ecosystems
(The extent and distribution of wetlands) Moderate for important wetlands nationally
Good for some states
(Trends in river and wetland health) Poor nationally
Good for the Murray–Darling Basin (rivers)
Good in some states (rivers)

a See original report for definition of ratings.

b Note added by authors of the current report: Good for woody vegetation but not nonwoody

Source: Summarised from the 2008 national assessment15

All state and territory SoE reports recognise that their information base is inadequate in some or all areas. The development of a national environmental reporting approach16 offers the prospect of improving this situation, and the Australian Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council11 has committed to establishing a national long-term biodiversity monitoring and reporting system by 2015 as part of Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030. In addition, calls for the establishment of long-term ecological research sites have argued the need to better understand how ecological systems change under human-induced and other pressures, so that we are better able to identify signs of change and take appropriate preparatory actions to avoid or cope with it.17-19 The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, established with funding from the Australian government, is under development20 and is likely to meet some, but not all, needs for long-term ecosystem monitoring and research in Australia.

Cork S (2011). Biodiversity: Availability of information. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/science/soe/2011-report/8-biodiversity/2-state-and-trends/2-1-availability-of-information, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812