Threatened species under the EPBC Act

Photos of a purple-crowned fairy-wren, numbat, slender darling pea and loggerhead turtle

Biodiversity—the variety of plants, animals, micro-organisms and ecosystems that constitute our living environment— is not static; it is constantly changing. It can be increased by genetic change and evolutionary processes, and it can be reduced by threats which lead to population decline and extinction.

Australia’s biodiversity is currently in decline; in Australia, more than 1,700 species and ecological communities are known to be threatened and at risk of extinction.

The key threats to species are loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat, invasive species and altered fire regimes Other threats include unsustainable use and management of natural resources, changes to the aquatic environment and water flows and climate change

Threatened fauna and flora may be listed under Section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in any one of the following categories:

  • extinct
  • extinct in the wild
  • critically endangered
  • endangered
  • vulnerable
  • conservation dependent

In order to determine if a species is eligible for listing as threatened in one of the categories under the EPBC Act, a rigorous scientific assessment of the species’ threat status is undertaken. These assessments are undertaken by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) to determine if the item is eligible for listing against a set of criteria as set out in the guidelines for nominating and assessing threatened species and ecological communities. A list of threatened species can be found at EPBC Act Lists

Nominations for listing

The assessment of species as threatened fauna or threatened flora is the first step to promoting their recovery under Commonwealth law.

Any person may nominate a native species for listing under any of the threatened species categories.

An invitation to nominate is extended by the Minister each year ahead of a new assessment cycle. Nominations received during the invitation period are considered by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) for inclusion in a proposed priority assessment list.

Expert groups can also undertake status review assessments of a particular taxon or group of species and submit a status report to the Committee for consideration that may result in recommendations to amend the (EPBC Act) list of threatened species.

Nominations included on the finalised priority assessment list are assessed by the Committee, which makes these nominations available for public and expert comment. After assessment, the Committee's advice is forwarded to the Minister, who must decide whether a species is eligible for listing under the EPBC Act within 90 business days of receiving the advice of the TSSC.

Protecting listed threatened species

Once a species is listed under the EPBC Act its recovery is promoted using conservation advice, recovery plans, and the EPBC Act's assessment and approval provisions.

Conservation advices

Conservation advice is developed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee based on the best available information regarding the conservation status and threats to an ecological community at the time of listing. Conservation advice includes the grounds on which the species is eligible for inclusion in the particular category in which it is listed, the main factors that are the causes for it being so eligible and provides guidance on what could appropriately be done to stop the decline of, or support the recovery of the species.

Recovery plans

In addition to conservation advice, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee also provides to the Minister a recommendation on the need for a recovery plan for listed species. Recovery plans are comprehensive management tools that enable recovery activities for threatened species to occur within a planned and logical framework. Recovery plans describe key threats and identify specific recovery actions and can be for either single or multiple species, or based on a region.

Assessment and approval provisions

Listed threatened species are matters of national environmental significance (protected matters) under the EPBC Act's assessment and approval provisions.

A person must not take an action that has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a listed threatened ecological community, without approval from the Minister.

To obtain approval, an action must undergo an environmental assessment and approval process. To find out whether an action is likely to have a 'significant' impact on a listed threatened species, read the following:

More information

To find out if a listed threatened species is on your property or area of interest, use the following tool:

For a comprehensive understanding of the provisions relating to listed threatened species, you should refer directly to the:

See also: general information about the EPBC Act.

For general information about threat abatement plans contact the Australian Government Department of the Environment Community Information Unit:


Freecall: 1800 803 772

Photo credits

Purple-crowned fairy-wren - photo by Nick Rains, Numbat - photo by Alexander Dudley. Loggerhead Turtle - photo by David Harasti, Slender darling pea - photo by John Baker.