Independent Report to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06745 0
- Trend: Climate variability and change
Major variability occurs over periods of decades, with ENSO cycles dominating. Some slow increases in average annual rainfall, and a slow increase in mean annual temperatures.
- Trend: Atmospheric ozone
Ozone destroying emissions are reducing and ozone losses have stabilised
- Trend: Enhanced greenhouse
Emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase.
- Trend: Urban areas
Air quality is stable or continues to improve in urban areas.
- Trend: Regional areas
Air quality in regional areas has continued to improve.
- Trend: Ecosystems
There is little change in the condition, with ecosystems still being highly fragmented, pressure is increasing due to land clearing and other threatening processes and the overall response is adequate in some respects although there are still some major gaps.
- Trend: Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity is declining although information remains patchy.
- Trend: Species
The condition, although variable, is generally deteriorating, pressure is increasing and the response has been adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Technical knowledge/data
Knowledge of biodiversity is variable, with less commitment to some areas and advances in others. There is an increasing public expectation. Research is focused but needs to address a range of data needs for SoE reporting.
- Trend: Land clearing
Land clearing has reduced in most states although it continues in some areas. Legislation and other controls have resulted in a variable response to date.
- Trend: Dryland salinity and water quality
The condition of habitats is declining as a result of increasing pressures of salinity and changes in hydrological regimes. The response is sometimes adequate but on-ground action often is still not reversing the situation.
- Trend: Changes in land use
The condition is variable, pressures on biodiversity continue as a result of urban expansion and increasing population pressures. There has been increased attention from local governments on addressing biodiversity through local planning processes and land capability studies.
- Trend: Invasive species/diseases
There is an growing threat to terrestrial and marine systems through introduction of an increasing range of species. The response has been variable but awareness of the issues has increased.
- Trend: Key habitats
The condition of key coastal habitats has not changed significantly since 1996, pressures have remained constant and responses have been adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Estuaries
The condition of estuaries has deteriorated since 1996, pressures are increasing and responses have been adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Coral reefs
Coral reefs show signs of degradation in some areas, pressures have remained constant and responses have been adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Seabirds and shorebirds
The populations of seabirds and shorebirds has thought to have declined since 1996, pressures such as habitat loss remain constant and the overall response is adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Marine mammals
Whale and seal populations seem to be recovering while dugong populations remain stable. Pressures remain constant and responses have been adequate in most respects.
- Trend: Coastal water quality
Nutrient and sediment loads are causing deteriorating conditions in some coastal waters, pressures are increasing, while responses are adequate in some respects.
- Trend: Commercial wild capture fisheries
The status of many fisheries remains unchanged since 1996 while responses to the pressures have been adequate in most respects.
- Trend: Introduced marine pests
Pest species are continuing to cause deterioration of habitats and species; the risk of new introductions is constant and significant, while responses have been adequate in most respects.
- Trend: Marine resource management
There has been a very slow improvement in the state of marine resource management, pressures have remained constant and responses have been adequate in some respects.
- Form of human settlement
Pressures on the form of human settlements have remained constant since 1996 while responses have been inadequate in most respects.
- Urban infrastructure
The condition of some urban infrastructure is deteriorating, pressures on it are increasing and responses have not been fully adequate.
- Material use
Material use per capita has continued to increase since 1996 while responses have been adequate to some extent.
- Energy use
Energy use continues to grow while responses have been inadequate.
- Urban water use
Residential water use per capita is decreasing while pressures are increasing and the response is adequate in most respects.
- Transport use
Transport use is continuing to grow at a faster rate than population growth (i.e. more cars, more often and further). The condition of transport is deteriorating (i.e. increasing congestion, ageing vehicle fleet and infrastructure). However, there has been an adequate response in some respects (i.e. efficiency and emissions initiatives).
- Indoor air quality
There are insufficient data to determine trends, and responses are inadequate in most respects.
- Waste management
As a result of increasing pressures and adequate responses in most respects, the condition is static.
- Surface water
Pressures are increasing as surface water use continues to increase. The condition is deteriorating and the overall response is adequate in some respects but inadequate in others.
- Groundwater use versus sustainable yields
Groundwater available for allocation has reduced substantially in the last decade, and is now overused and over-allocated in many Groundwater Management Units (GMUs).
- Water quality
Pressures are increasing, condition is deteriorating as more land is affected and the overall response is inadequate.
- Algal blooms
Nutrient enrichment and reduced streamflow due to over-extraction of water have increased the frequency and extent of toxic blue-green algal blooms, with some reservoirs being unsuitable for recreation or drinking-water supply over 25% of the time.
- Pollutant sources
Diffuse source pollution and especially soil loss from catchments continues to contribute to the widespread nutrient enrichment and turbidity of inland waters. Soil washed into rivers and reservoirs will remain a source of nutrients for decades.
- Water acidity
This is an emerging issue in some catchments where increasing trends in water acidity and the area of land affected by soil acidity have been found. Higher water acidity may lead to increased availability and movement of pollutants as well as changes to the chemistry of rivers and streams.
- Aquatic ecosystems
Increasing salinity of inland waters is a major threat to many aquatic ecosystems, particularly in western Victoria and south-west Western Australia. Eighty important wetlands are already affected by salinity.
- Trend: Accelerated erosion
Pressures are reducing, condition is improving and response is variable.
- Trend: Altered habitats
Pressure is constant or increasing, condition is deteriorating and response is improving.
- Trend: Invasive species
Pressures are constant or increasing, condition is deteriorating and response is constant or increasing.
- Trend: Secondary salinity and acidity
Pressures are constant or increasing, condition is deteriorating and response is increasing (salinity only).
- Trend: Nutrient and carbon
Pressures are constant or increasing, condition is static and response is increasing (carbon).
- Soil and land pollution
No trends are assessable, no previous data are available for pressures, the condition is variable (some are improving, some unknown) and the response is increasing from a low base.
- Knowledge of heritage places
There is an increasing trend in the number of natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places being identified; however, gaps exist and responses are adequate in some respects.
- Conservation and management of heritage places
Condition of heritage places has remained static; however, losses are continuing and responses are adequate in some respects. In particular, there are uncertainties about future management arrangements.
- Heritage objects
There is improving documentation of objects in collections, pressures remain constant and responses are adequate to some extent.
- Community involvement
There is increasing involvement in natural heritage but less for Indigenous and historic heritage.