1 Approach | 3.1 State and trend
State of the Environment 2011 Committee. Australia state of the environment 2011.
Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011.
What is the current state and trend in condition of the environment?
After an introduction to the theme, each chapter assesses the state and trend of various ‘components’ of the environment. As with previous national SoE reports, the best available evidence is assessed to provide the most accurate picture possible of the state of the Australian environment. This evidence is discussed and presented in the body of each thematic section on the state, and summarised in theme-specific assessment summaries of state and trend.
In the assessment summaries for state and trend, the environmental components are identified and described, then assigned one of four grades of present condition (very good, good, poor, very poor) and one of three grades of change over time (improving, stable, deteriorating). The scale of four condition grades is used across all the chapters except for the Atmosphere chapter, where five grades are used to describe ambient air quality in line with nationally agreed reporting practice. The specific definitions of each grade are described at the end of the assessment summaries. An indication of confidence in each grade and the evidence supporting it is also provided (see Box 1.2).
The assessment summaries in State of the Environment 2011 provide snapshots of key information, and focus on identifying areas for continued or more concentrated attention on strengthening environmental systems to cope with pressures in the future. Assessment summaries are provided for state and trend, pressures and management responses in each of the themes (Figure A shows a sample assessment summary for state). The summary text in the assessment tables should be read in conjunction with the explanatory text in each section of the theme chapters.
The authors have indicated the strength of the evidence for assessments with a ‘level of confidence’. If adequate high-quality data were available or consensus was high, confidence is indicated as high. If there were only limited data or consensus to determine grades, confidence is indicated as low. Where data are insufficient to attempt scores, this is also indicated, and the component remains on the list to remind readers that it is still an important aspect of the Australian environment, and that more information is needed to improve our understanding and capacity to respond to environmental challenges.