Drivers versus pressures


A drivers-pressures-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework distinguishes between drivers and pressures. Drivers are the ultimate factors that cause change, and pressures are the more immediate factors that affect the environment. Chapter 2 of this report identified the main drivers of environmental change—climate change, population growth and economic growth. Each of these drivers has direct and indirect effects on biodiversity via the pressures that they cause (Figure 8.10). A number of recent publications have analysed and categorised drivers and pressures on biodiversity in Australia.1,15,32,87-89 These do not lead to a standard classification; therefore, we have used a classification similar to that used previously in national SoE reports—recognising that while it might not be optimal, it is sufficient to describe the key issues at a national scale.

It can be difficult to separate drivers from pressures. For example, expansion of urban areas might be seen as a pressure arising from population growth or as an intermediate driver of land-use change. We have interpreted it as an intermediate driver in this chapter. Similarly, we have considered pollution to be a pressure arising from population and economic growth that acts as an intermediate driver of decline in habitat quality.

As has been emphasised in previous SoE reports, the factors affecting biodiversity rarely act alone (see Section 3.13) and their interactive effects are difficult to predict. This means that it is difficult to attribute changes in biodiversity unequivocally to single pressures.

Cork S (2011). Biodiversity: Drivers versus pressures. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812