During the past 5 years, environmental policies and management in Australia have had some notable success in improving the state and trends of parts of the Australian environment. Australia’s built environment, natural and cultural heritage, marine environment and Antarctic environment are generally in good condition. On land and in Commonwealth waters, Australia has a comprehensive system of protected areas, although some important gaps remain in adequacy and representativeness. Since SoE 2011, both the National Reserve System, particularly through an increase in Indigenous Protected Areas, and the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas have increased.
However, the condition of the environment is poor and/or deteriorating in some areas. These include the more populated coastal areas and some of the growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest (particularly in south-eastern Australia); and the extensive land-use zone of Australia, where grazing is considered a major threat to biodiversity.
The poor state and declining trend of Australia’s biodiversity are an issue of particular concern. For instance, the number of species listed as threatened under the EPBC Act continues to rise. Since 2011, the number of species listed in the critically endangered category has increased by 31, and 2 species have been reported as likely extinct. Overall pressures on biodiversity have mostly increased since 2011, and the status of biodiversity has mostly decreased, but our information base remains inadequate to robustly assess state and trends.
A changing global climate system is not only affecting Australia’s climate, but is also beginning to affect all other aspects of our environment. As described in the following sections, climate is directly affecting, and interacting with, other pressures on the environment.
The condition ratings of the state of the environment that are provided in the following sections are from the SoE thematic reports. For a more detailed assessment and an explanation of assessment ratings, see the relevant report.