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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1996

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4868 0

Case Study - Information

Coordinating marine and coastal research

Although a considerable amount of research into marine and coastal issues is being done, there remains a need to coordinate this effort to ensure that the research is directed at priority areas and is effectively meeting the needs of managers. The Australian Government has set in train a number of initiatives to coordinate marine research and data.

National Marine Information System

In cooperation with State agencies, the Australian Government has established a National Marine Information System under the Ocean Rescue 2000 program to provide marine environmental information to managers and decision-makers.

The system is being developed jointly by the Commonwealth Spatial Data Committee and the Heads of Marine Agencies, the two relevant Commonwealth coordinating bodies. It will include significant data on all aspects of our marine environments including fisheries, mineral resources, ocean currents and climate, and the distribution of marine life around our coastline. The National Marine Information System will be critical in long term monitoring and reporting on the marine environment and in helping to develop a representative system of marine protected areas. It will also help to integrate principles of ecologically sustainable development in broad scale regional planning and decision-making by developing a capacity for long term monitoring and reporting of the condition of Australia's marine environment.

CoastNet and the coastal atlas

The Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) is also leading a Commonwealth initiative to draw on all existing research organisations in an effort to further improve the availability of coastal information and to enhance our understanding of the coastal zone. This is being achieved through the creation of an Australia-wide electronic communications network called 'CoastNet'. CoastNet aims to improve communications between researchers and coastal managers and to support the communication needs of community groups.

The Australian Government is also establishing an Australian Coastal Atlas. This will be an electronic atlas, drawing together the combined data holdings of the Commonwealth. It will be made accessible to the community and State and Local Governments and will be based on a distributed database network, so information would not need to be held in a single centralised location.

Establishment of the Coastal Atlas will ensure that existing databases are networked and accessible to coastal managers, thereby providing the necessary technical infrastructure to help improve the decision-making process. It also aims to ensure that financial support for development of resource information, coastal research and monitoring, is conditional on data outputs meeting agreed standards for data collection and transfer, and that information required for sound decision making is available at a scale applicable to coastal managers.

As part of this process, the National Resources Information Centre is preparing a coastal data inventory. This will link information available through the coastal resource atlas (operated under Australia's National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil), which identifies environmental values sensitive to oil spills.

Coastal monitoring system

A sound understanding of the 'state' of the coastal zone is necessary if we are to determine whether our use of it is sustainable. Only by observing the coastal zone over a long period can we know how it is changing. The ability to detect change in our environment is vital if we are to identify the effects our actions are having on our surroundings, to monitor the performance of our management systems, and to identify natural levels of variability. Long-term monitoring of the coastal zone, including the development and maintenance of baseline inventories, has often been neglected.

The Australian Government has established a regular State of the Environment reporting process, and has released the first national State of the Marine Environment Report. As part of this process there is an urgent need to establish a network of monitoring sites around the Australian coast to provide governments with baseline information to meet policy and management needs. A national tidal gauge network has recently been established to monitor sea-level and related changes in the state of the oceans. Co-ordination of sea level data throughout Australia is carried out by the National Tidal Facility located at Flinders University in South Australia. The facility is also involved in several sea level monitoring projects throughout the south-west Pacific and South-East Asia.

The exchange of ocean data within Australia is facilitated through the Australian Oceanographic Data Centre which is managed by the Royal Australian Navy. Meteorological data relevant to oceans monitoring is obtained routinely from an extensive network including coastal stations, islands, buoys, and ships, as well as scientific remote sensing data.

Australia also has an interest in monitoring the coastal zone to identify changes in the global environment. In 1989 the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, in conjunction with the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme, initiated work on the establishment of a Global Ocean Observing System. Australia fully endorsed the initiative and is taking steps to develop our contribution to this international effort. In addition to meeting domestic needs, the Coastal Monitoring System proposed under this policy will make a significant contribution to the Global Ocean Observing System.

As well as providing long-term information on the quality of coastal environments and any changes in the zone, the Coastal Monitoring System should be capable of meeting more immediate management needs. Results from monitoring should be directly relevant to managers, informing the decision-making process and improving strategies for minimising the risks and costs associated with use of the coastal environment. For this reason managers, and not just scientists, are being closely involved in the design of the monitoring system. The results from this monitoring will be incorporated in the coastal atlas and will be made available to the widest possible range of coastal managers.