Examples of key responses

2011

Effective management of biodiversity requires not only effective management of individual pressures but also effective integration across those pressures, including management of their interactions with one another. Therefore, in the previous subsections, we have discussed aspects of management effectiveness across all pressures. In this subsection, we focus specifically on a few key responses that address a range of pressures simultaneously, especially the two pressures concluded to have had the strongest and most widespread effects on biodiversity in the recent and longer term past: clearance and fragmentation of native ecosystems, and invasive species and pathogens. These two pressures are also the two most complicated to assess, because there are so many different dimensions to addressing each of them, both within and between jurisdictions.

The impacts of climate change are emerging as major future pressures and preparation for these will be considered in Section 6 of this chapter.

4.4.1 The National Reserve System

The National Reserve System (NRS) is the main instrument by which Australia seeks to protect a representative sample of remaining intact, native ecosystems. The NRS includes conservation parks and reserves on both public and private land, as well as Indigenous protected areas. Since 2005, development of the NRS has been guided by a national, state and territory collaborative strategy: Directions for the National Reserve System: a partnership approach.183 This was followed in 2009 by Australia’s strategy for the National Reserve System 2009–2030.147 In the latter document, the focus of the NRS is said to be:

… to secure long-term protection for samples of all our diverse ecosystems and the plants and animals they support. It also complements measures to achieve conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity across the landscape, which are increasingly important under conditions of climate change. (p. 2)

The NRS has grown steadily over the past 15 years (Figure 8.16). In 2008, protected areas covered around 98.5 million hectares (12.8%) of Australia’s landmass.147 As discussed below, however, assessing the effectiveness of this growth is complicated.

Central to the NRS strategy are the principles of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness (CAR) (Table 8.23). These criteria were established by the Implementation Sub-Committee for Nationally Agreed Criteria for the Establishment of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System for Forests (commonly known as the JANIS criteria).184

The NRS does not include clearly defined CAR targets, making it difficult to assess whether ecosystems are being managed effectively under the scheme. For example, the targets set for comprehensiveness and representativeness in the 2009 strategy for the NRS147 called for the inclusion of ‘examples’ of ecosystems, but little guidance was given about the size, quality or landscape context of samples that should be counted as ‘examples’. The targets set in that strategy were:

  • Progressing comprehensiveness—Include examples of at least 80% of the number of regional ecosystems in each IBRA region. Priority will be given to under-represented IBRA bioregions with less than 10% protected in the NRS. (Responsibility: all jurisdictions by 2015 with reports on progress every two years.)
  • Progressing representativeness—Include examples of at least 80% of the number of regional ecosystems in each IBRA subregion. (Responsibility: all jurisdictions by 2025 with reports on progress every two years.)

However, the NRS does give some guidance for specific groups and purposes:

  • Protecting threatened species and ecosystems—Include critical habitats and core areas important for the survival of rare, migratory, threatened or other priority species and ecological communities, including those listed under federal, state or territory legislation in each IBRA bioregion. (Responsibility: all jurisdictions by 2030 with reports on progress every two years.)
  • Protecting critical sites for climate change resilience—Include critical areas to ensure the viability, resilience and integrity of ecosystem function in response to a changing climate, such as large and small refuges, critical habitats, broad landscape-scale corridors, places of species and ecosystem richness, sites of endemism and sites that support threatened species or ecological communities, and places important for the stages in the lifecycle of migratory or nomadic species, to act as core lands of a broader whole-of-landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. (Responsibility: all jurisdictions by 2030 with reports on progress every two years.)

Two recent independent assessments of progress towards NRS objectives used different interpretations of ‘example’ and reached different conclusions about what degree of protection has been achieved (Table 8.23).

Assessing adequacy (i.e. whether enough of each ecosystem has been protected to ensure their viability) is even more difficult, because there is no nationally agreed approach to its assessment. In the 2009 strategy for the NRS, the main target for adequacy is:

By 2030, include critical areas to ensure the viability, resilience and integrity of ecosystem function in response to a changing climate, including large and small refuges, critical habitats, broad landscape-scale corridors, places of species and ecosystem richness, sites of endemism and sites that support threatened species and or ecological communities, and places important for the stages in the life cycle of migratory or nomadic species, to act as core lands of a broader whole of landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. (p. 13)

This target recognises that the NRS must be of adequate size and quality to ensure the viability of Australia’s biodiversity under current conditions, and that it must also be able to support future protection measures when climate and other conditions will likely be very different. This is uncertainty that cannot be avoided; we can, however, work to clarify the targets for how large the NRS should be. The JANIS committee recommended protection of at least 15% of the area of all extant ecosystems, with allowance for some flexibility and greater protection for threatened species and ecosystems. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which Australia is a signatory, includes a target of ‘at least 10% of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved’, which Australia has applied to bioregions.185 Australia has since adopted the CBD Strategy for 2011–20, which includes a new target of 17% of terrestrial ecosystems and inland waters in protected areas by 2020.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the two major recent assessments of the progress of the NRS reported different results, largely due to different assumptions about ‘examples’ and targets.15,186 Nevertheless, both had similar main conclusions: the NRS has grown in important ways in the past decade or so, but a substantial gap remains to be filled before comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness can be said to have been achieved (Table 8.23 and Figure 8.17).

Table 8.23 Two assessments of progress of the National Reserve System towards comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness
Definitions147 National assessment in 200815,a WWF-Australia in 2011186,b
Comprehensiveness refers to the aim of including samples of the full range of regional ecosystems recognisable at an appropriate scale within and across each IBRA bioregion Of Australia’s 85 bioregions, 45 had low or very low ratings for comprehensiveness and only 11 met the Australian Government’s target (see text above) based on presence or absence of examples of ecosystemsc Five bioregions met the Australian Government’s target based on an ‘example’ meeting minimum size criteriad
Adequacy refers to how much of each ecosystem should be sampled to provide ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and ecological communities at a bioregional scale. The concept of adequacy incorporates ecological viability and resiliency for ecosystems for individual protected areas and for the protected area system as a whole No adequacy measure has been agreed nationally
Forty-nine bioregions have 10% or more of their area in protection, and 36 fall below this level
The total area of the NRS falls short of a 10% target by 27 million hectares
The gap falls mainly in rangelands
This study proposed an interim standard of 15% based on the JANIS criteria and assessed against this (Figure 8.17)
The National Reserve Sysem falls about 70 million hectares short of adequacy, based on the proposed interim standard
The gap falls mainly in rangelands and also in relation to inland wetlands (see Figure 8.17)
Representativeness is comprehensiveness considered at a finer scale (IBRA subregion), and recognises that the regional variability within ecosystems is sampled within the reserve system. One way of achieving this is to aim to represent each regional ecosystem within each IBRA subregion Of Australia’s 403 subregions, 52 met the Australian Government’s target based on presence/absence criteriac
Another 196 had low or very low ratings for representativeness
In 64 subregions, native ecosystems had no representation in protected areas
20 subregions met the Australian Government’s target based on an ‘example, meeting minimum size criteria’d

IBRA = Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia

a This assessment was based primarily on data collected up to and including 2006

b This assessment was based primarily on data collected up to and including 2008

c This assessment concluded that an ‘example’ of an ecosystem was protected if that ecosystem was present, to any extent, in protected areas in a region or subregion

d This assessment only counted ecosystems as being included in protected areas if: (1) an area greater than 1000 hectares was included; or (2) if 100% of the existing area was included if the remaining regional or subregional extent was less than 1000 hectares.

Source: Taylor et al.186

The WWF-Australia assessment suggests that Australia is nearly halfway towards 15% representation of ecosystem diversity, but that around 70 million hectares still need to be added to the stock of highly protected land to achieve the target (Figure 8.17). More would be needed if a 17% target is to be realised. It appears possible to meet most of that target; WWF-Australia estimates that all but about 2% of the gap can be met from largely intact or remnant ecosystems, with the rest requiring rehabilitation of degraded systems.186 The Assessment of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity 2008 estimated that there may be difficulty meeting the 10% targets in only 5 of the 85 bioregions.15

At the scale of jurisdictions, management effectiveness was assessed as highly variable, ranging from 20% secure protection in Queensland to 99% in the Australian Capital Territory (Figure 8.17).

Assessing the adequacy of the NRS with respect to nationally threatened species is also complicated by the lack of clear criteria and by different interpretations of existing data. The Assessment of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity 200815 noted that the distributions and natures of many threatened species do not fit well with the protected areas management model, which is based around discrete protected areas. Considering progress at developing recovery plans for species listed as threatened under state, territory and national legislation, it was noted that the long lag times between action and results make it hard to assess success of programs for managing these species, but that:

Overall resourcing, however, has been inadequate and commonly short term. Development of recovery plans, and particularly their implementation, lags well behind listing of threatened species and communities. As there is no consistent national monitoring system in place, it is difficult to comprehensively assess the success of this important and widespread institutional response. (p. 234)

A recent Australian Government assessment187 reported the proportion of records for 13 463 threatened and nonthreatened species that fell within the NRS, but these data are difficult to interpret, both because of the unknown biases in where data were collected, and because threatened species were not considered separately. However, this assessment represents a further step towards addressing the limitations noted above.

Table 8.23 Two assessments of progress of the National Reserve System towards comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness
Definitions147 National assessment in 200815,a WWF-Australia in 2011186,b
Comprehensiveness refers to the aim of including samples of the full range of regional ecosystems recognisable at an appropriate scale within and across each IBRA bioregion Of Australia’s 85 bioregions, 45 had low or very low ratings for comprehensiveness and only 11 met the Australian Government’s target (see text above) based on presence or absence of examples of ecosystemsc Five bioregions met the Australian Government’s target based on an ‘example’ meeting minimum size criteriad
Adequacy refers to how much of each ecosystem should be sampled to provide ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and ecological communities at a bioregional scale. The concept of adequacy incorporates ecological viability and resiliency for ecosystems for individual protected areas and for the protected area system as a whole No adequacy measure has been agreed nationally
Forty-nine bioregions have 10% or more of their area in protection, and 36 fall below this level
The total area of the NRS falls short of a 10% target by 27 million hectares
The gap falls mainly in rangelands
This study proposed an interim standard of 15% based on the JANIS criteria and assessed against this (Figure 8.17)
The National Reserve Sysem falls about 70 million hectares short of adequacy, based on the proposed interim standard
The gap falls mainly in rangelands and also in relation to inland wetlands (see Figure 8.17)
Representativeness is comprehensiveness considered at a finer scale (IBRA subregion), and recognises that the regional variability within ecosystems is sampled within the reserve system. One way of achieving this is to aim to represent each regional ecosystem within each IBRA subregion Of Australia’s 403 subregions, 52 met the Australian Government’s target based on presence/absence criteriac
Another 196 had low or very low ratings for representativeness
In 64 subregions, native ecosystems had no representation in protected areas
20 subregions met the Australian Government’s target based on an ‘example, meeting minimum size criteria’d

IBRA = Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia

a This assessment was based primarily on data collected up to and including 2006

b This assessment was based primarily on data collected up to and including 2008

c This assessment concluded that an ‘example’ of an ecosystem was protected if that ecosystem was present, to any extent, in protected areas in a region or subregion

d This assessment only counted ecosystems as being included in protected areas if: (1) an area greater than 1000 hectares was included; or (2) if 100% of the existing area was included if the remaining regional or subregional extent was less than 1000 hectares.

Source: Taylor et al.186

WWF-Australia186 analysed the extent to which the NRS includes an adequate proportion of the remaining distribution of threatened species (Figure 8.18). They used an interim standard of 30%, and found that most species listed as threatened nationally had some part of their distribution in the NRS, but only 28% had 30% or more of that distribution in strictly protected areas. Significant proportions of threatened species in all jurisdictions, and around 14% nationally, had none of their distribution in strictly protected areas.

In summary, at the national level, objectives for the NRS are only partly articulated in clear terms. Long-term achievement of comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness are clearly challenging, partly due to the costs of acquiring land and availability of land for purchase, but even interim targets are not being achieved. This suggests a mismatch between targets and allocation of resources for achieving them. There is still a considerable expansion of the reserve system needed to achieve adequate protection of threatened species within that system; at present, a significant proportion of threatened species are not represented in strictly protected areas. This also emphasises the importance of effective conservation outside reserves.

Conservation outside reserves

Over the past decade, important steps have been taken towards better managing native ecosystems outside reserves for conservation objectives. These have been largely through nongovernment groups investing philanthropic funds, and through government grants for projects to protect or manage remnant vegetation under the Natural Heritage Trust and Caring for our Country programs nationally, and various state and territory programs.

Nongovernment conservation organisations are helping to build the NRS and their contributions are the fastest growing sector.188 In the past decade, nongovernment organisations have raised and spent more than $20 million on buying and protecting land of high conservation significance, maintaining that land and investing in research. The area protected in this way during this decade is estimated at more than 1.8 million hectares.188 Birds Australia concludes that ‘a concerted effort by dedicated individuals, recovery teams, landholders and governments has improved the prospects of several threatened species’ (Olsen,85 p. 2).

Land stewardship programs, which pay landowners and managers to enter into agreements to protect remnant ecosystems, have been increasingly used by many Australian governments. These agreements include requirements to manage pressures on biodiversity in those ecosystems. They have been seen as a way to address the absence of market-based signals to protect biodiversity by creating markets for conservation actions. Although there are now figures on the amounts of priority ecosystems secured under stewardship programs in Australia, it is too soon to assess what effect they are having on the long-term sustainability of biodiversity.

Taylor et al.189 recently published an evaluation of alternative conservation actions (protected areas versus stewardship) based on the outcomes for populations of threatened species around Australia. These authors argued that the limitations of stewardship approaches are that they are expensive per hectare compared with the outright purchase of land, and the duration of protection is limited. Proponents of stewardship approaches argue that there are situations in which ecologically important land cannot be purchased, and that there are ongoing benefits in encouraging landowner behaviours that may be emulated by others.

Taylor et al.189 found that only 28% of the 606 species examined had stable or improving status, and that species with greater distributional overlap with strictly protected areas had proportionately more populations that were increasing or stable. Measures other than strictly protected areas showed no positive associations with stable or increasing trends. They stressed that these results do not demonstrate unequivocally that protected areas are better than stewardship approaches. Similarly, the lack of observed recovery of threatened species in association with stewardship approaches could be at least partly due to these approaches being applied in landscapes that have already been highly modified and where threatened species are mostly in decline. Nevertheless, the analyses suggest that monitoring and assessment of investments in different approaches to biodiversity conservation has been worthwhile and that allocations to protected areas might warrant greater attention than the current 10% of overall conservation funding in Australia.

We note the conclusion from Section 5 in this chapter, which states that a diversity of approaches is important for the resilience of the social–ecological systems of which biodiversity is a part. Therefore, while debate about the relative benefits of investments in protected areas versus stewardship is important, so too is ensuring that the merits of both approaches are not judged only on simple economic efficiency criteria.

‘Connectivity conservation’ is a key emerging approach that is trying to encourage strategic management of protected areas and other land uses within a ‘landscape matrix’ (Box 8.9). This approach builds on many decades of research that have developed an understanding of how the structure, species composition and landscape configuration of native vegetation remnants combine with management practices to influence the viability of species at landscape scales107,190 (see also Chapter 5: Land). Such approaches offer the flexibility and potential resilience to allow biodiversity and biodiversity managers to cope with future uncertainties, such as climate change. It should be noted, however, that we still have only limited information to allow managers to predict how to restore, keep or manage for functional connectivity, and that ongoing research is essential in this key area.191 For example, not all species use connected habitat networks in the ways anticipated by humans,192-193 so designing connections in an informed way will require better understanding of landscapes from the perspective of diverse species or at least empirical evidence about what works and what does not.

Box 8.9 Connectivity conservation and the Great Eastern Ranges corridor107

Connectivity conservation is based around the concept of large-scale ‘connectivity corridors’ that maintain or establish multidirectional and multiscale connections over entire landscapes and can encompass up to thousands of square kilometres. They extend over many degrees of latitude and longitude, they include lands of many tenures and ownership, they interconnect and embed protected areas, and they help maintain opportunities for the movement of species and evolutionary interactions at a time of climate change. Connectivity corridors are a continental-scale response to climate change.194 Elements of a connectivity corridor include dispersal corridors (such as corridor networks and habitat corridors) and ecological corridors (which focus on landscape permeability for ecosystem processes).

The Steering Committee of the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council approved the public release of a ‘proof of concept’ report on the idea of a continental-scale conservation corridor extending along Australia’s Great Eastern Ranges, from Victoria through New South Wales to Atherton in Queensland. Case studies from the Bega Valley, north-eastern New South Wales and central Queensland help illustrate the conservation challenges facing much of the Great Eastern Ranges corridor.

Appropriate conservation management can enable the corridor to make a significant contribution to Australia’s national carbon accounts by protecting forest and other ecosystem carbon stocks and avoiding depletion of these stocks from emissions associated with land-use activities. This will allow forests and other ecosystems with depleted carbon stocks to regrow to reach their carbon-carrying capacity, and further increase the stock of carbon stored in the Great Eastern Ranges corridor ecosystems by promoting permanent native revegetation.

Invasive species and pathogens

The Assessment of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity 200815 concluded, from a series of case studies (mostly on invasive species), that:

… [there is] a lack of effective and systematic monitoring systems for evaluation and limited resources invested in responses to threats compared with the scale and nature of the threats. The scale of the impacts from threatening processes is such that the voluntary and uncoordinated approaches adopted to date will not be effective. (p. 8)

It is extremely difficult to assess the effectiveness of management in relation to invasive species and pathogens from SoE reports from most states and territories (Table 8.24). These reports mostly list plans, strategies and inputs to management, but rarely report on the effectiveness of processes or on outputs and outcomes (see Table 8.22 for information on state and trends of invasive species). Some SoE reports state that actions are not achieving desired results, while this conclusion is implicit in other SoE reports since the effects of invasive species are assessed as getting worse. Some SoE reports conclude that there is not enough information to assess trends or the magnitude of effects.

Table 8.24 Key elements of state and territory management strategies in relation to invasive species and pathogens
These descriptions are taken from the most recent state of the environment reports. Although some details may have changed recently, the details here reflect what was in place for much of the previous reporting period.
Jurisdictiona Progress
ACT The ACT Vertebrate Pest Management Strategy forms the basis for vertebrate pest control in the ACT. An annual program report outlines pest-management activities for the preceding year and scheduled activities for the coming year. An important part of the strategy is preventing new exotic species from establishing in the wild; therefore, early management of emerging pest species is a priority of the program. The principles of the strategy for managing established vertebrate pests are also generally applicable to invertebrates
From 2007–08, vertebrate pest control was guided by a five-year plan founded on the principles set out in the strategy. The five-year plan promotes better continuity of control programs (necessary for sustained pest management)
An important initiative has been the introduction of the Pest Plants and Animals Act 2005. The Act strengthens the legislative framework for dealing with pest plants by setting out requirements for controlling listed species and prohibits the supply of a large proportion of them, meaning that nurseries can no longer sell listed species. Weed control has been coordinated through the ACT Weeds Strategy 1996–2006 and a revised strategy has been prepared to cover 2007–17
NSW The monitoring, evaluating, reporting and improvement (MERI) strategy is being implemented to monitor progress towards all targets in the state plan (note: the state plan has been updated since the most recent state SoE report)
A variety of laws, policies and programs are administered by a range of government agencies to manage invasive species in the state. The response of the government to invasive species impacts is set out in the New South Wales invasive species plan 2008–2015,195 which describes a range of strategies to control or reduce the impacts of invasive species that are most effective at different stages in the cycle of incursion and establishment of an invasive species. The latest state SoE report describes plans and strategies in detail, but provides little assessment of progress
NT Management of the territory’s terrestrial biodiversity is based on commitments in territory, Australian and international legislation, agreements and policies. Off-reserve conservation management is being implemented on many Aboriginal lands through Indigenous Ranger groups, coordinated by various land councils and Aboriginal resource centres. The potential importance of such coordinated management in maintaining biodiversity values through active fire management and invasive species control cannot be overstated. On other lands, and especially the pastoral estate, Landcare and related groups also coordinate important conservation management activities in association with landholders, particularly in weed and feral animal control, erosion mitigation and protecting sensitive habitats from overgrazing. Government agencies foster territory-wide management of weeds, fire and feral animals by working with landholders and other stakeholders to implement control measures
Qld Most exotic vertebrate pests have long been established in the state and have broad distributions. Eradication is not feasible for these species, so their management must focus on restricting their spread, preventing new introductions and controlling their impacts. Control needs to be sustained and well coordinated, and target areas of high actual or potential impact
One national and five state strategies are implemented to manage pest animals
Increased transport of people and goods will continue to test border security. Recent introductions include three tramp ant species for which eradication is being attempted. The pet trade is another source of introductions despite legislation prohibiting the keeping of likely invasive animals as pets. New control methods are being developed, because there is an increasing need for techniques that are humane, target-specific and cost-effective in reducing the impacts of pests
Invasive terrestrial plants (weeds) cost the state an estimated $600 million a year in lost primary production and control in the most recent SoE period up to 2009; more than 100 plant species are declared weeds in Qld, and 7 of these are terrestrial WoNS.
Four strategies are currently implemented to combat weeds, as well as a strategy for each of the WoNS. Local Government Area Pest Management Plans endorsed in 119 of 157 local government areas at 30 June 2007 can deal with both declared and nondeclared weeds that threaten the area
SA The Natural Resources Management Act 2004 provides the framework for managing key pest plants and terrestrial pest animals in the state. Former Animal and Plant Control boards have been consolidated into eight NRM boards, allowing an integration of management responses to water, soil and pest issues. Declarations are enforced by NRM boards through coordinated control programs, with technical and policy support from the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (DWLBC) and overseen by the State NRM Council
NRM boards, DWLBC and the Department for Environment and Heritage (now combined into the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—DENR), the Department of Primary Industries and Resources, and industry and community groups also collaborate on education and awareness activities, research, planning and strategic control programs for particular pests, industries or regions. At the national level, the Vertebrate Pests Committee sets policy directions to achieve better outcomes for managing pest animals and led the development of the Australian Pest Animal Strategy. The implementation of this strategy within SA is being led by DENR. The Australian Weeds Committee and the Australian Weeds Strategy provide policy and investment frameworks for national weed management, implemented in this state through DENR
Tas Various legislative changes and reviews have clarified interpretation and enforcement in relation to weeds, updated quarantine schedules, established threat abatement plans for Phytophthora cinnamomi, strengthened import regulations with respect to weeds, added a listing of animal pests, and created new bylaws for cat management by local councils. Among them, several government departments (Forestry Tasmania; Hydro Tasmania; Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment; Parks and Wildlife Service; and Cradle Coast NRM) have developed and released plans to manage weeds, pests and diseases in forests; weeds in hydro-related activities; priority weeds across Tasmania’s road network; weeds in wilderness areas; Phytophthora cinnamomi impacts on Tasmanian plant species and communities statewide; new weeds in the Cradle Coast region; foxes, rabbits and rodents; and wildlife diseases including psittacine circovirus disease and devil facial tumour disease. The plans will also include a review of wildlife monitoring priorities, and allow for biosecurity and strategic pest management. Other land-management groups such as Greening Australia, and environmental programs such as Landcare, Bushcare and Rivercare, have developed weed-related strategies, plans, processes and procedures, and have undertaken on-ground works. In 2003, Agricultural Contractors of Tasmania established a code of practice to encourage agricultural workers to adopt best-practice hygiene principles to reduce the spread of weeds and plant diseases
Vic The Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 is the primary legislation relating to control of pest plants and animals in Vic. This Act sets out landowners’ roles and responsibilities in relation to weeds and pests. Discrepancies in coverage of weed control between public and private tenure creates a situation where there is a lack of enforceable legislation for some weed species on private land.
Vic takes a biosecurity approach to the management of pest plant and animal species. The key objective of this approach is to limit the establishment of new introduced species. The Victorian Pest Management Framework (VPMF) was developed in 2002 to provide strategic direction for the management of declared and potential pests in Vic. It recognises the impacts of weeds and pest animals on economic productivity, the value of the state’s natural resources and biodiversity. As part of the VPMF, specific management strategies have been developed for weeds, rabbits, wild dogs, foxes, feral pigs and feral goats, and public land management. Biosecurity Victoria is a business group formed within the Department of Primary Industries in 2004, whose role is to develop and manage the delivery of the Victorian Government’s biosecurity and market access programs for the livestock, plant, fisheries and forestry industries. Its functions include developing the state’s capacity to monitor, detect and respond to pest plant and animal disease threats.
A biosecurity strategy, intended to update the VPMF, is under development and will provide a new policy framework for managing weeds and pest animals in Victoria. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service manages quarantine controls at our borders to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country The Victorian Government acknowledges that despite substantial public and private investment, weeds and pest animals remain a significant threat to the state’s land and biodiversity resources. To address this, a number of projects aimed at encouraging public engagement with weed and pest control have been developed in recent years
WA Improved monitoring is needed to determine the extent and density of introduced animal species in the state. Western Shield, a predator-control program, has been credited with bringing at least 13 native fauna species back from the brink of extinction. To date, quarantine and preventive procedures have excluded some invasive species present in other Australian states (e.g. Indian mynas, red-eared slider turtles and imported red fire ants)
In addition to quarantine, legislation, policies and strategies for managing weeds, many government agencies (including the Department of Agriculture and Food, Department of Environment and Conservation, Main Roads, Westrail and local governments) have programs to remove weeds on land under their jurisdiction. Individual landholders are responsible for controlling weeds on their land (including declared plants). Many community groups, notably the Environmental Weeds Action Network and its associated clubs and societies, conduct removal and management of weeds. The Saving Our Species program began in 2006 and the weed eradication and control component builds on the Environmental Weed Strategy for WA. Forty weed species are being targeted in the initial 18 projects to eradicate entire weed populations at a local scale, where possible.
6 exotic mammals (fox, feral cat, goat, rabbit, black rat and house mouse) have been eradicated from more than 45 islands in a series of projects since the 1960s
National Key findings from seven case studies (five of which were on invasive species) are that cross-tenure delivery (park, forests, other Crown and private land) of programs to abate threats is necessary for landscape-scale approaches; and that a sound understanding of the biology and ecology of the target species and communities is needed to be able to design and evaluate threat abatement programs. Long-term investment is essential for controlling threats that extend, and are well established, over vast areas. Partnerships, engagement and good communication with all key stakeholders will contribute to the success of threat abatement programs. Integrating threat abatement programs and recovery actions for threatened species and communities provides important opportunities to scale up and maximise outcomes for biodiversity

ACT = Australian Capital Territory; NSW = New South Wales; NRM = natural resource management; NT = Northern Territory; Qld = Queensland; SA = South Australia; Tas = Tasmania; Vic = Victoria; WA = Western Australia; WoNS = Weeds of National Significance

a Sources are the same as for Table 8.5

Nationally, biosecurity (the processes, programs and structures in place to prevent entry by, or to protect people and animals from, the adverse impacts of invasive species and pathogens) is complex. It has a broad spectrum of stakeholders; includes public health, livestock health, plant health and wildlife disease; and has pre-border, border and post-border dimensions.196 As Table 8.24 shows, successfully dealing with invasive species and pathogens requires extensive engagement and cooperation of communities. The Australian Government and the state governments, working with key stakeholders in agricultural industries and the public health sector, establish the national framework. Turning the framework into plans and strategies is done through cooperation between the Australian Government and state government agencies, drawing on expertise from CSIRO and industry or government agencies, such as Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia. Other stakeholders (e.g. environmental groups) and research providers (e.g. universities, research institutes, CSIRO, the biosecurity cooperative research centres), and a number of private companies, also play significant roles.

Biosecurity faces many challenges, mostly due to the diversity of the potential invasive organisms and the complexity of the institutional arrangements needed to detect and deal with them and then assess the effectiveness of the response.196 There are increasing risks of disease epidemics or pandemics affecting large parts of the Australian population and industries. Much of the attention of the biosecurity community is therefore focused on these broadscale risks, and the response to the persistent effects of invasive species that affect biodiversity is often one of containment rather than eradication. Over the past two decades, there has been increased pressure on resources in the biosecurity sector and a shift in responsibility to industry and government industry partnerships (e.g. Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia). Steps have been taken to improve consistency of biosecurity arrangements across Australia. The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC), established in 2008, provides strategic leadership in managing national approaches to emerging and ongoing biosecurity policy issues across jurisdictions and sectors. All biosecurity issues, including environmental, animal and plant biosecurity issues, are considered by the NBC. The Australian Government, and state and territory governments, have also developed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity, which sets out roles and responsibilities to create a stronger working partnership to improve the national biosecurity system. It is expected to formally come into effect by the end of 2011. In addition, an agreement is being developed to establish national arrangements for responses to nationally significant biosecurity incidents with predominantly public (rather than industry) benefits. This agreement is known as the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement. Many of the state-based processes outlined in Table 8.24 link with national frameworks and strategies, but there are ongoing challenges related to efficient allocation of limited resources, effective communication and information sharing, and recruiting and maintaining a skilled workforce.196

In 2008, an independent review of Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity arrangements by a panel chaired by Mr Roger Beale AO concluded that Australia’s biosecurity system is good—often the envy of other countries—but far from perfect.197 The review recommended significant changes to improve the system’s ability to deal with changing and increasing biosecurity risks. The changes included:

  • improved partnerships with the states and territories and with industry
  • improved governance structures, including an independent commission to assess the biosecurity risks of imports, a national authority to undertake biosecurity operations, and an Inspector General of Biosecurity to audit the authority’s work
  • a risk–return approach to biosecurity operational activities
  • new biosecurity legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908
  • more funding for biosecurity activities and upgraded information technology systems.

The Australian Government has agreed in principle with the proposed reforms and work has begun within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to implement the reforms and interim arrangements.197

Global-scale drivers of biosecurity issues are important. There is growing concern about movements of species between countries, which occur at rates several orders of magnitude greater than prehistoric rates of range expansion.140 Non-native species entering new countries have the potential to become pests and to have enormous impacts on native species. The spread of potentially invasive species globally is driven in part by industries such as grazing, nurseries and the pet trade, intentionally or unintentionally, but also by policies of governments. At the beginning of the 2000s, for example, there were calls to review policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that promote free trade but are considered to encourage species invasions.198 The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures allows countries to preclude importation of new species if they impact adversely on human, plant or animal health, but there is ongoing dispute about levels of evidence required and so the measures have little effect.140 Over the coming decades, there will need to be greater attention to these types of global drivers if Australia is to successfully manage invasive species within its borders.

Cork S (2011). Biodiversity: Examples of key responses. 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/4-effectiveness/4-4-examples, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812