Risks from changes to land management arise mainly through potential hydrological and water quality changes, whereas those from water management relate to changes in the timing and nature of flows that may be beneficial or detrimental to aquatic ecosystem health.
Land clearing is a fundamental pressure on the environment. It causes the loss, fragmentation and degradation of native vegetation, and a variety of impacts on our soils (e.g. erosion and loss of nutrients), waterways and coastal regions (e.g. sedimentation and pollution).
The past 5 years has seen an ongoing relaxation of the effects of the millennium drought and recovery in many areas (the millennium drought in southern Australian lasted from 2000 to 2010, although in some areas it began as early as 1997 and ended as late as 2012).
Under natural conditions, the land (i.e. landforms, soils, drainage networks of streams and rivers, vegetation and other biota) is in some sort of equilibrium with the climate and disturbance factors such as bushfire.
Lead levels have declined since the early 1990s, because of the ban on lead in petrol for motor vehicles. Although isolated hotspots of lead concentrations still exist in locations where lead smelting is undertaken, some of these are also decreasing.
Legislative arrangements for the management of public lands continue to be relatively stable, despite flux in the names, structures and specific responsibilities of the government departments and agencies that oversee management.
Along with overall land-use planning, management of the built environment also requires planning around several specific components of the environment and human activity. Current focus areas include transport and traffic, water, energy, waste, and disaster management.
Environmental agencies in the states and territories are responsible for controlling pollutant emissions from large industrial point sources, such as power stations, refineries, smelters, manufacturing plants, cement works and abattoirs.
Most management systems aimed at maintaining or enhancing resilience in components of the marine environment focus on reducing the cumulative nature of multiple impacts and avoiding dramatic shifts in species composition, also known as regime shifts.
Within the marine environment, marine debris is sourced from both the land (rubbish flushed out to sea; see further detail on coastal pollution in the Coasts report) and marine industries (loss of equipment, often from fishing operat
In the 5 years since SoE 2011, the marine environment has experienced several climate extremes, including one of the strongest La Niña events on record, in 2010–12, and the strongest El Niño event since 1998, in 2015–16 (see
Australia State of the Environment 2016 has been prepared by independent experts using the best available information to support assessments of environmental condition, pressures, management effectiveness, resilience, risks and outlook.
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We, the authors, acknowledge the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community; we pay respect to them and their cultures and to their elders both past and present.