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.
The drivers-pressures-state-impact-response (DPSIR) model adopted in this report tends to portray pressures as acting individually. Our personal communications with those preparing SoE reports in states and territories indicate that most researchers are thinking about ways to take account of the interactions among pressures.
While there are many interactions among pressures, emerging and future climate change is likely to magnify the effects of all previously identified pressures.140
An analysis of which pressures are most commonly found acting together on Australian plants identified a set of ‘threat syndromes’:88
- Syndrome 1. Species with small-to-medium geographic ranges (usually less than 100 kilometres) intersecting regions developed for extensive crops (e.g. Verticordia plumosa var. pleiobotrya).
- Syndrome 2. Species with small-to-medium geographic ranges that intersect urban areas (e.g. Grevillea caleyi).
- Syndrome 3. Narrow endemics with specific habitat requirements threatened by fire, weeds, disease, hydrological changes, salinity or other landscape-scale ecological changes (e.g. Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis).
- Syndrome 4. Species adapted to rock outcrops threatened by grazers (sheep, rabbits, goats), introduced weeds, fires, dams or other human activities (e.g. Zieria parrisiae).
The interaction between fire regimes and climate change will be particularly significant.141 Climate change is expected to affect fire regimes through its effects on temperature, rainfall, humidity and wind, and also through impacts on vegetation growth and litter accumulation.142
Interactions between climate change and invasive species have been mentioned (e.g. effects of soil warming on invasive fungi), but as species are forced to move around landscapes the distinction between natural and invasive may become less clear and species previously seen as native might be considered as invading the ranges of other native species.1
In much of Australia, interactions among climate change, agriculture and biodiversity are already emerging as declines in biodiversity are partly driven by agricultural practices and also affect agricultural productivity, while climate change affects both.143
|Component||Summary||Assessment grade||Confidence in grade||Confidence in trend|
|Very high impact||High impact||Low impact||Very low impact|
|Local climate||Drought has been a major pressure on all components of biodiversity in all jurisdictions over the past decade. The effects differ with location and types of biota. Some mobile species move while less mobile ones have suffered decreases in numbers. It is difficult to assess the long-term implications of the past decade of climate variability|
|Pollution||Point source pollution (e.g. from factories): Regulations are frequently effective for point source pollution, but this is still listed as a source of concern in state and territory SoE reports. Biodiversity is highly susceptible to major pollution events, like oil spills, especially when they occur near areas of unique diversity|
|Diffuse and broadscale pollution: Pollution pressures range from local (point source) to national and global (e.g. carbon pollution and ocean acidification). Most jurisdictions express concern about pollution, especially from urban and agricultural sources. The grade is based on the impacts of broadscale pollution, such as accumulation of atmospheric carbon and ocean acidification|
|Consumption/extraction of biodiversity and/or other natural resources||Direct harvesting of wildlife around Australia is well regulated and has a minor affect on biodiversity. However, the average per-person consumption of natural resources overall by Australians is one of the highest in the world, and several analyses suggest that consumption will need to be reduced considerably if biodiversity and other resources are to be sustained as Australia’s population grows|
|Clearing and fragmentation of native ecosystems||Past clearing for agriculture and urban development has been a major driver of biodiversity decline around Australia. Impacts of urban development per capita appears to be falling, but overall impact is growing or stable as the population has been growing. Extent of land clearing is declining but the legacy of past clearing means that impacts have continued to rise and will do so for some time. The upward arrow reflects a general reduction in the clearing of land in recent years and therefore a trend towards reducing the pressure from recent practices|
|Pressures from livestock production||Grazing continues to be a major pressure on biodiversity, especially in the rangelands and in combination with drought and fire. There is little information to allow assessment of whether new approaches to grazing are having a significant impact yet|
|Invasive species and pathogens||All jurisdictions report invasive species and pathogens as one of the most significant current and future problems, potentially exacerbated by climate change. There are very limited data on which to assess whether efforts to address problems are having an impact|
|Altered fire regimes||Effects have been Australia-wide, they have been particularly significant in northern savannas and fire-sensitive and fire-dependent communities (e.g. monsoon vine thickets)|
|Changed hydrology||There have been major effects on wetlands and river health. Loss of terrestrial vegetation due to salinity has been considerable. Actions to address known issues have not had time to show outcomes. The problems have been worst in the most developed catchments|
|Recent trends||Improving||Stable||Confidence||Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus|
|Deteriorating||Unclear||Limited evidence or limited consensus|
|Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment|
|Grades||Very low impact: Few, if any, species and/or ecosystems are suffering substantial adverse effects from this pressure|
|Low impact: A small proportion of species and/or ecosystems are suffering substantial adverse effects from this pressure|
|High impact: A significant proportion of species and/or ecosystems are suffering substantial adverse effects from this pressure|
|Very high impact: A large proportion of species and/or ecosystems are suffering substantial adverse effects from this pressure|
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