The Australian State of the Environment 2011 report, presents a comprehensive review of the state and trends of the Australian environment; the pressures on it and the drivers of those pressures. It also covers management initiatives that are in place to address environmental concerns and the impacts of those initiatives, as well as the resilience of the environment and the unmitigated risks that threaten it.
The main purpose of the report is to provide relevant and useful information on environmental issues to the public and decision-makers in order to raise awareness and support more informed environmental management decisions. For the first time the report goes beyond a descriptive summary of evidence to include graded ‘report-card’ style assessments of environment condition and trends, pressures and management effectiveness. Also new to national State of the environment reporting in 2011 are discussions of the drivers of environmental change, resilience, risks, and future projections or ‘outlooks’.
Among the many facts reviewed it was noted that the overall condition of the Australian marine environment is good, but that integrated management will be key to the future conservation of their ocean resources. The report mentions also that acidification and erosion currently affect large areas, although wind erosion has decreased in response to better agricultural practices. Data on biodiversity suggest that many species continue to decline, despite promising investment in addressing these pressures. Invasive species, inappropriate fire patterns and grazing are having a significant impact on much of land environment.
Climate change poses the largest future threat to Australia inland water systems. Current water-sharing rules tend to favour water entitlement holders over environmental flows in dry times. Australia’s water consumption fell by 25% from 2004-05 to 2008-09. Regarding health, ambient air quality and air pollution management in Australia’s urban centres are generally good, but the impact of urban air quality on health is still a matter of serious concern.
Context : The report was written by an independent committee of experts chaired by Dr Tom Hatton (Director, CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship) appointed by the Australian Minister for the Environment. An independent peer review was used to validate and strengthen the content of the report and its supplementary technical reports.
In many cases, workshops were held with experts to gather evidence and information, discuss issues and gauge opinion.