Australian Natural Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT)

What is ANHAT?

A heritage assessment tool

The Australian Natural Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT) is a map-supported database developed by the Department's Heritage Division. It helps identify and prioritise areas for their natural heritage significance, focusing on biodiversity. Significance is determined based on rigorous comparisons of specific natural values, and ANHAT is an important tool to aid an evolutionary understanding of Australia's biodiversity.

To add a place to the National Heritage List it must be shown to have "outstanding heritage value to the nation". This requires a assessment of significance against other places in Australia with similar values.

Varanus-gouldi

Gould's Goanna (Varanus gouldi) Darling River.

Photo: C. Slatyer

This in turn may require comparative information for the whole continent. As one of the sources of information used for natural heritage assessment, ANHAT enables quick analysis and comparison of recorded biodiversity values across Australia to meet statutory timeframes, and provides scientifically robust and repeatable results.

A biodiversity information tool

ANHAT uses the most complete, integrated dataset in Australia for locations of native species. ANHAT holds, manages and analyses data on the location of over 30,000 species to help identify places which best represent what is unique about our biodiversity.

By analysing the distributions of numerous species together, ANHAT is able to give a coherent picture of the patterns in Australia's biodiversity, its biogeography.

The tool helps us to answer questions such as:

  • Where is the greatest diversity in Australia's flora and fauna to be found?
  • Where are the important centres of endemism which generate or retain so much of our evolutionary biological heritage?

Untangling the tree of life - valid species names based on taxonomic authorities

All species information used in ANHAT is checked to ensure it refers to a valid species by its currently accepted name. This is because species are often known by more than one name, and names change over time as knowledge improves. Species occurrence data often includes exotic species, spelling errors and other anomalies. Without a sophisticated system to manage alternative names, the information presented on Australia's biodiversity has the potential to be misleading.

To manage this ANHAT includes a taxonomic hierarchy - the 'tree of life' - to resolve the available species information to a clean and consistent set of locations assigned to the correct taxonomic group.

What data are included in ANHAT?

 near Nyngan

Caper White Butterfly (Belenois java) near Nyngan.

Photo: C. Slatyer

ANHAT compiles over 33 million records on locations where species were observed or collected in Australia. These records come from:

  • Australian Museum
  • Australian National Herbarium
  • CSIRO Australian National Insect Collection
  • CSIRO Australian Wildlife Collection
  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
  • Museum Victoria
  • Northern Territory Herbarium
  • Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Launceston
  • Queensland Herbarium
  • Queensland Museum
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
  • South Australian Museum
  • State Herbarium of South Australia
  • Tasmanian Herbarium
  • Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
  • Western Australian Herbarium
  • Western Australian Museum
  • Birds Australia
  • Commonwealth Department of Defence
  • Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  • NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change
  • NSW Department of Primary Industry, Forests NSW
  • Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts
  • Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, WildNet
  • South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage (Biological Survey of South Australia Database)
  • Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (Natural Values Atlas)
  • Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment
  • Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Mr Russell Sheil (Rotifers of Australia)
  • Mr David Crosby (Lepidoptera of Victoria)

ANHAT does not cover all groups of species - yet

Careful taxonomic checking occurs before species are included in ANHAT. As this is a rigorous process that takes time, not all species are covered in ANHAT. However ANHAT does covers a broad range of biodiversity including:

Taxonomic group Species
All vertebrates
i.e. mammals, birds, frogs and fish > 4,200
137 families of vascular plants
comprising the majority of Australia's named plant species now increased to > 15,000
A range of invertebrate groups including:
numerous insect families > 16,600
all land snails > 2,300
selected spider families > 1,100
rotifers – aquatic wheel animals > 700

ANHAT information online

These summaries highlight important aspects of biodiversity within Natural Resource Management (NRM) areas around the country.

Publications

Recent articles provide a good guide to the methodology used in ANHAT:

More information

For further information please contact anhat@environment.gov.au