State of the Environment (SoE) reporting themes | Coasts


This theme considers the special features of the interface between ocean and land, the challenges to coasts posed by climate change and management responses to pressures on our coastlines.

In previous SoE reports, information related to coasts was combined with the marine environment under one theme: ‘Coasts and oceans’. In SoE 2011, ‘Coasts’ and ‘Marine environment’ are two separate, but related, chapters.

Coastal zone’ has been defined in various ways in the past. In this chapter, coasts are considered loosely to be the zone of interface between terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments. The size of that interface is different for different issues and processes. (SoE 2011, 11 Coasts - 1 Introduction)

Key findings

SoE 2011:

  • Variations in climate, and changes in the size and composition of the population around Australia’s coasts, have been major drivers of pressure on the coasts – for both the natural and the built environment – over the past decade.
  • The major pressures on natural and cultural heritage, marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and ecosystem processes along Australian coasts are similar to those in previous reports on the state of the environment.
  • Some trends in land use and management practices have reduced some pressures.
  • The greatest reductions in native vegetation extent have been in eastern, south-eastern and south-western Australia.
  • All chapters of this report cite examples of promising responses to coastal challenges by governments, working individually and together, but outcomes for some major issues are still far from ideal.
  • Debate about coastal governance and management took an important step forward with a 2009 report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts.
  • Recent research comparing Australian coastal governance with examples elsewhere in the world concluded that the ability to adapt to emerging pressures, especially climate change, is low and declining in many parts of Australia.
  • The major emerging risks that remain incompletely addressed for Australia’s coasts are those relating to climate change, especially sea level rise, and demographic change. The future of coastal Australia will depend largely on how rapidly these changes occur, how extreme they are, and how Australians prepare for and respond to them.

For more details see SoE 2011 - Coasts: Key findings

SoE 2006:

NB: this report covered Coasts in the Coasts and Oceans chapter

  • Australia still does not have a comprehensive, nationally consistent system for measuring the condition and trends of its coasts and ocean ecosystems and the key resources they support.
  • While still uncertain, the current forecasts of climate change suggest that increasing ocean temperatures will cause major impacts on coral reefs and that changing ocean circulation patterns are likely to affect cold water, and thus planning for adaptation to climate variability should be a priority.
  • Because Australian marine ecosystems remain at risk from exotic species being brought into Australian waters on ships’ hulls and discharged in ballast water, measures to restrict transfer must continue both internationally and domestically.
  • Trends in the status of fisheries’ resources and in the bycatch are negative, and efforts to reverse these trends, such as improving management plans and introducing environmental management systems, should be enhanced and then communicated to the public to ensure progress is measured and evaluated.
  • While there are no surprises or new issues since 2001, the need to resolve existing problems remains as strong as ever in order to stem the slow decline of environmental quality.

For more details see SoE 2006 - Coasts and Oceans: Key points

Related information

SoE 2011:

SoE 2006:

SoE 2001:

SoE 1996: