The 2016 state of the environment (SoE) report is the first in the series to include a full report devoted to coasts. The 'Coasts' chapter of SoE 2011 was an overview that covered coastal cross-cutting issues, but, for 2016, there was sufficient subject matter to warrant a full report. The full report is more substantial, has increased breadth of topics and has added visual assessment summaries. These changes bring the format into line with the other thematic reports.

Many of the topics covered in the 2016 Coasts report were covered in the 'Marine environment' chapter in 2011. In 2016, the Coasts and Marine environment reports have been carefully coordinated to partition subject matter and minimise overlaps. Guiding principles used to partition subject matter were that:

  • Coasts covers aquatic environments within the heads of estuaries and bays, all areas of the intertidal zone, and all habitat up to 50 kilometres inland from the shore
  • Marine environment covers subtidal marine habitats more generally, including those in gulfs and coastal marine waters outside the heads of estuaries and bays. Some land-based pressures that also affect the marine environment are covered in the Coasts report
  • aquatic species covered by Coasts are those that are strongly dependent on coastal habitat for some proportion of their lifecycle.

There is some overlap between Coasts and other SoE reports, particularly Land, Atmosphere, Built environment and Inland water. This is unavoidable given the concentration of human settlement and environmental modifications at the coast. Where the potential for overlap was substantial, such as for ‘airborne emissions’ and ‘coastal land use and pollution’, topics are dealt with briefly in the Coasts report, and readers are directed to other reports for more detail.

To gain expert opinion and to populate the assessment summaries used in this report, more than 150 experts were consulted by online survey and email. Each expert was asked to provide assessments for the state and trend of one or more topics within their field of expertise, as well as the level of confidence in their assessments. They were also asked for supporting information to explain the reasoning behind their estimated scores. The final gradings given to each assessment were determined after considering responses from all experts in light of supporting information, and in conjunction with other data sources, where available. We are greatly indebted to all experts who contributed to this report. Contributing experts are listed in the acknowledgements.

Clark GF, Johnston EL (2016). Coasts: Approach. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b659bdc758b