Chapter 5 Climate change adaptation strategies
[I]f you do not understand your backyard well, how can you
[P]henomena that remain unmeasured cannot be fully understood
and therefore cannot be reliably predicted.
As the effects of climate change on Australia’s biodiversity continue to
become apparent, governments and communities must be ready to adapt our ways of
living to suit a new environment. Mitigation strategies should be adopted, to
lessen the impact on the environment of these inevitable changes. Important mitigation
strategies include reaching the global targets for reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions, increasing the resilience of our ecosystems, and developing adaptive
management approaches in order to respond to and accommodate these uncertain
future climatic events.
The Committee gathered a vast array of evidence and suggestions on
different ways to approach biodiversity conservation in the face of climate
change. Instead of managing individual species and individual refuges in
isolation from each other, focus should be consolidated on connectivity
conservation and adaptive management practices. The overriding theme arising
out of the evidence was a need for a nationally coordinated approach to
biodiversity conservation, environmental research and baseline monitoring.
New approaches to biodiversity
Given the relatively recent development of, and fast moving phenomenon
that is climate change, new approaches to biodiversity conservation are currently
being debated and developed.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
suggested the need for a society-wide debate about what future conservation
objectives should be and how they should be included, prioritised and implemented
in future policy and management plans and practice.
It was suggested that the objectives of ‘no species loss’ will need to
change to ‘minimising loss and maintaining ecological processes’, and further of
the need to focus on ‘appropriate connectivity’.
The Committee heard further from CSIRO of the need to manage at the
geographic scale at which change is being driven, anticipate complex system
interactions and ensure coordination between sectors, and establish adaptive
management approaches for successful and rapid adaptation to change.
The Committee heard of the need for a nationally coordinated approach to
research and monitoring that is not limited by short-term funding cycles.
Climate modelling experiments were also discussed as providing vital
information about potential environmental change and as the basis for assessing
impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
The Committee heard that the science of adaptation to climate change is
in a developmental stage, and that a consolidated focus on adaptation and a
well‑structured approach to identifying and prioritising adaptation
options to assist decision making in future are needed.
CSIRO stated the value of longitudinal data sources—like its Atlas of Living
Australia (the Atlas) project—in determining how change has occurred and
providing a basis for modelling possible responses in future.
Biodiversity conservation objectives
The Committee heard about the need for significant change to biodiversity
conservation policy and management in order to meet the challenges of climate
change. Some of these suggestions included: changing management priority to
maintaining ecosystem services through a diversity of well-functioning
ecosystems; enhancing ecosystem resilience through connectivity conservation
and more effective control of invasive species; using risk assessments to
identify vulnerable species and ecosystems; supporting integrated regional
management approaches tailored for regional environmental, climate change and
socioeconomic differences; and supporting rapid and effective mitigation of the
impacts of climate change.
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) focussed on
the need for development of a framework to evaluate and prioritise greenhouse
gas mitigation and climate change adaptation strategies for local government
decision-makers, which takes into account the differences in vulnerability, capacity
and resourcing between local governments. WALGA further suggested
a number of aspects to incorporate into such a framework, including:
identifying and quantifying actions that could support mitigation and
adaptation efforts; developing an economic model to assess the impacts on
biodiversity of different climate change scenarios; prioritising strategies,
policies and actions with immediate, medium and long-term rankings for climate
change impacts on biodiversity assets; and assisting local government decision-makers
to incorporate such information into the financial, social and environmental
assessment framework of the relevant local government body.
The Committee heard from the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council of
the need to facilitate the involvement of Aboriginal people in biodiversity
conservation planning, support Indigenous peoples’ sustainable use of
biodiversity, and appropriately use Indigenous Ecological Knowledge in
governance arrangements and biodiversity and climate change policy.
The NSW Aboriginal Land Council also stated as essential the need to recognise
the unique status of Aboriginal peoples in all aspects of land and resource
management. The Committee heard from
Professor Jon Altman and Dr Seán Kerins of the Australian National University that
Indigenous Australians hold land and/or native title rights over an estimated 23
per cent of the country, or 1.7 million square kilometres.
Development of national environmental
The issue of the development of national environmental and biodiversity
datasets was raised on numerous occasions during the inquiry, with many
suggestions on how to improve on current datasets and develop new and
comprehensive datasets being canvassed. The Committee met with representatives
of the Western Australian Museum, the Melbourne Museum and the Australian
Museum, all of whom outlined the importance of measuring our biodiversity and
having the appropriate resources to do so.
Dr Patricia Hutchings of the Australian Museum outlined one of the major
roles of museums as being ‘to accurately identify the Australian fauna—that is,
document our biodiversity … ‘ as well as to ‘understand how the biota has
evolved over time and predict how it is going to change in the future’.
The Committee heard of the need to integrate disparate sets of data using
analytical tools, so that the available information can be easily synthesised
and translated into forms useful for decision making.
The Committee heard also that digitisation infrastructure is critical for
maximising the benefit of Australia’s significant investment in biological
Having adequate capabilities in place to measure our biodiversity, and
sufficient digitisation infrastructure available to transform the numerous
records that remain to be digitised, will assist with the development of
comprehensive environmental and biodiversity datasets.
Climate change mitigation
Mitigation strategies are an important means of reducing the likelihood
or impacts of changes to biodiversity due to climate change. A number of
strategies were suggested, some including the need for:
n a reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions
n management of
existing environmental stressors
n increasing the number
of protected areas in the National Reserve System (NRS) and improving
n adequate legislation
on biodiversity protection
n ensuring biodiverse
n education and
n routine modelling of
biodiversity assets and introduced species
n integrated regional
Reduction of greenhouse gas
The Committee heard that there needs to be deep cuts in global
greenhouse emissions by 2020 at the latest, in order to prevent mass
extinctions later in the century, and that the reduction
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the ultimate solution to reducing the
threat of climate change.
CSIRO stated that it is working to understand where the carbon storage
already is in Australia and where the capacity is to increase it. The next step
was stated as being to understand how biodiversity can be maximised at the same
time. Further, that in order to use resources effectively, it is important to understand
where to plant so as to maximise carbon storage for investment, where it is
better to maximise biodiversity outcomes, and where you can do both.
The Committee observed the Savannah fire burning project in Northern
Australia, carried out from Cape York to the Kimberley. This project has been
successful in reducing carbon emissions and has been described as being capable
of delivering about a million tonnes a year of reduced emissions from poorly
managed fire and capable of delivering sequestration over the longer term
several times that amount. The large‑scale
fire management methodology was developed by the Northern Australian Indigenous
Land and Sea Alliance (NAILSMA), in association with Indigenous groups and
Management of existing
The South West Catchments Council, as one of the regional natural resource
management (NRM) organisations, stated that it employs mitigation activities across
its region to control weed invasions, support the community with knowledge and
skills, and carry out revegetation projects and riparian restoration works.
It also suggested that regions should promote similar activities and coordinate
and collaborate with communities on local projects.
The Committee heard that in the Australian Alps the most profound
changes are likely to occur because of the interaction between climate change
and other stressors.
The Committee also heard that in order to minimise loss of key species
and their habitat, and to help native species respond and adapt to climate
change, we need to more effectively manage threats such as fire, weeds and
feral animals in protected areas.
The Committee understands the importance of managing existing
environmental stressors as an effective mitigation strategy.
Benefits of mitigation
The Committee heard from the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and
Climate Change that mitigation remains the most important factor in reducing
the impacts on biodiversity, given that strong mitigation scenarios carried out
in the wet tropics of Queensland could result in no species extinction as
compared to the predicted 25 per cent of all species going extinct.
The Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) stated that
considering the ecological, socioeconomic, and management implications of
climate change impacts before they occur is essential to mitigating their
negative effects and developing effective adaptive response strategies.
It also stated the need for strategies for non-extractive use of marine
resources outside of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), such as aquaculture and
ecotourism, and management of the associated impacts.
Increasing resilience in ecosystems
and human communities
There is a marked crossover between mitigation strategies and projects
undertaken to increase resilience in ecosystems and human communities. Increasing
resilience will strengthen the capacity of these systems to deal with climate
changes. The Committee heard that maintaining natural resilience to facilitate
adaptation will benefit biodiversity regardless of future climate scenarios.
In order to build resilience, the Committee heard of the need to:
n maintain genetic
diversity and structural complexity
n support assisted
n reduce the impact of
current threats such as inefficient fire regimes and invasive species
n reduce clearing and landscape
n assist in
regeneration and revegetation
n increase protected
areas in the NRS
n encourage private
land biodiversity conservation
n support the
development of connectivity conservation.
Resilience building frameworks
The Committee heard about the need to develop guidelines for
revegetation programs, allowing for ongoing selection and ensuring that
genotypes in the landscape match future climate conditions, as well as the need
to focus reserve development and revegetation efforts on areas with climatic
gradients, in order to allow for ongoing adaptation.
In relation to the Australian Alps, the Committee heard that it would be
helpful to map connectivity and refugia patterns and link them to regional
climate change predictions, and further that the information, including the
conservation value of particular areas, should be incorporated into management
In regards to threatened species, it was suggested that a framework be
established to determine appropriate times when genetic translocation, and
potentially species relocation, might be appropriate.
The Committee heard of the need to develop threatened species recovery programs
that consider adaptive genetic diversity and the likely effects of climate
The Committee understands that it will be necessary to evaluate the
potential of the NRS and build on it to maximise the biodiversity benefits in
projected future climates. The development of
low-risk strategies for invasive species control and genetic translocation in
order to assist in building resilience was also raised.
The Committee learned more about the important role played by Indigenous
knowledge in strengthening cultural resilience and enhancing the capacity of
communities to adapt and build resilience to climate change impacts.
The Committee acknowledges views that this Indigenous knowledge should be
included in education programs, and of the need for investment in cultural and NRM
programs within schools to teach Indigenous children the skills needed to more
effectively participate in the long-term environmental monitoring and climate
According to the Australian Museum, the resilience of marine ecosystems
can be increased by reducing other impacts such as pollution, habitat
destruction and over-exploitation, as well as increasing
highly protected, marine national park (green) zones and improving water
quality. The Committee also heard that these are the types of measures that
will give reef ecosystems the best chance of coping with climate change. AMSA stated
that MPAs are recognised as an important tool in improving resilience of marine
ecosystems, and as being important in providing ‘a benchmark against which
anthropogenic impacts may be disentangled from other drivers and stressors’.
The Australian Museum stated that in order to enhance numbers and
resilience in amphibian populations in freshwater ecosystems, we need to
enhance or restore breeding sites or core habitat, and create suitable refugia
in droughts by using irrigation systems or creating artificial shelter sites to
counter the drying wetlands.
The Committee heard that that some Catchment Management Authorities
(CMAs), across NSW and elsewhere, are working to establish the levels of
acceptable disturbance and associated thresholds of local ecosystems.
The Committee also received evidence of the need for additional
resourcing in order to establish these levels in a timely manner, given that if
the shock experienced is great enough, a threshold may be crossed and the
result is often a change in the state or function of a particular ecosystem.
The Committee heard of the Goulburn Broken CMA’s Indigenous seed
production program, aimed at increasing genetic diversity, and developed to
increase the numbers of plants for revegetation purposes, to reconnect existing
populations and improve ecosystem resilience.
The Australian Seedbank Partnership stated that it was researching into
restoring species and developing more holistic approaches to restoration by
integrating research disciplines (including seed science, soil invertebrates,
soil microbes, seed storage and germination), with the outcomes having
significant implications for building ecosystem resilience.
Adaptive management approaches
The Goulburn Broken CMA advised the Committee that adaptation planning
must be flexible and constantly monitored to assess the effectiveness of
actions undertaken. Further, adaptation will
need to occur in response to obvious threats and change, as well as to slower,
more gradual change.
The Ecological Society of Australia set out several adaptive management approaches,
including those related to:
n engaging the
community throughout the development of the adaptation process
n improving the ability
to value ecosystem services by developing market instruments, and undertaking
regulatory and taxation reform to promote environmental stewardship and create
incentives to reduce carbon emissions
ecosystem management into broader, cross-sectoral adaptation policies in order
to assist more sustainable adaptation across the sectors
n multiple use planning
for heavily exploited environments, such as ocean and inland floodplains.
The Committee heard about various adaptive strategies that should be
implemented in order to promote resilience in ecosystems and human communities.
The Queensland Murray-Darling Committee suggested that strategies identifying
areas of regional research and amendments or improvements to development
conditions will serve to promote this purpose.
CSIRO advised the Committee that a comprehensive, adequate and
representative NRS will assist adaptation of biodiversity to climate change,
with new additions to the NRS needing to target a diversity of ecosystems
across poorly protected environment types, with a particular focus on
minimising loss of key species. Further, of the need to aim to conserve a high
diversity of native habitats, as well as a large area of habitat, especially
that threatened by local activities.
CSIRO explained the need to ensure that policy and management plans
consider a wide range of possible changes resulting from climate change; anticipate
how various threats to biodiversity may change so that we can be prepared to
respond in ways that minimise biodiversity losses; and increase coordination of
different conservation and NRM programs so as to enable improved management at
landscape and regional scales, and ensure that NRM governance processes are
The Committee heard of the need to focus on species with high
evolutionary adaptability, requiring decisions to be made as to which species should
be abandoned, based on better intelligence gathering, monitoring and risk
assessment processes. Professor Ary Hoffman of
the University of Melbourne, and Dr Carla Sgro of Monash University, in their
submission, described that ‘the challenge for biodiversity management is to
pick winners and losers so that outcomes can be managed’.
Professor Hoffman and Dr Sgro described how particular characteristics of groups
of species, such as plant flowering times, can help predict whether they are
winners or losers; this information can be collected through long-term
ecological research, which to date has been poorly funded in Australia.
The Committee understands that species distribution models have serious
limitations, in that they do not explicitly consider species adaptability. The
Committee was advised of the need to develop predictive models for key
representative species— those that are highly threatened and those that drive
ecological processes in ecosystems—that allow aspects of adaptability to be
included in the models. Professor Hoffman and Dr
Sgro also stated that assessment is needed of the adaptability in terms of
evolution of representative species from key Australian plant and animal
CSIRO explained the need to revisit the definitions of invasive species
in different circumstances and how emerging novel ecosystems will need to be
valued in their own right, highlighting the need for society to determine what
we will value in future, what conservation objectives should be prioritised,
and how to implement them. The Committee also heard
about the need to develop ways of reclassifying communities based on climate
change resilience, and identifying species likely to increase and decrease under
climate change based on resilience and adaptability.
The Committee heard about the need for human intervention in maintaining
biodiversity and resilience in the form of genetic translocation, and that this
adaptive management strategy, which may involve mixing gene pools across wide
geographic areas, needs to be considered in order to increase the adaptability
of threatened species. The Committee also heard
that genetic translocation of endangered or threatened species may assist in
species conservation, such as that achieved by increasing the genetic diversity
for resilience of the mountain pygmy-possum by relocating it from Mt Hotham to
Mt Buller. Professor Kristine
French, President of the Ecological Society of Australia, discussed the need
for human intervention in order to maintain biodiversity because of the need to
move some of these species, stating that ‘[i]t is just not going to happen
unless we do it.’
The Committee heard that Indigenous people play a critical role in
monitoring, abatement and adaptation, knowing what is changing and how to
manage those changes. Dr Lisa Strelein,
Director of Research, Indigenous Country and Governance at the Australian
Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), explained
that Indigenous experiences and ecological knowledge could better be
incorporated into land management programs by researchers engaging with
Indigenous communities and exchanging knowledge so that the whole community can
benefit. Dr Strelein also stated
that in addition to the effective utilisation of Indigenous knowledge, there
are opportunities to empower and engage Indigenous communities by providing
economic opportunities and employment opportunities in line with Indigenous
aspirations for country.
Marine and freshwater ecosystems
The Committee heard from the CSIRO and the Water Resources and
Freshwater Biodiversity Adaptation Research Network (WRAFBARN) about some of the
adaptive management approaches necessary to maintain biodiversity in marine and
According to the WRAFBARN, a key adaptation strategy for freshwater
biodiversity is having water planning arrangements that incorporate provisions
for environmental flows. Further, that adaptation decisions need to consider a
range of climate projections.
CSIRO stated that improvements in coastal development and planning
regimes relating to predicted impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity are
likely to help with conservation of coastal wetland habitats.
Further, that more consistent, integrated and ecologically sensitive coastal
planning and development rules may result in protection of coastal habitats as
sea levels rise.
As the Committee had heard previously in relation to terrestrial species
knowledge, the level of information available for many fisheries and
aquaculture species is poor, and that improving knowledge of species is
Dr Alistair Hobday, a Research Scientist at the CSIRO also raised the potential
market for carbon trading through carbon sequestration in the ocean.
‘Blue carbon’—the natural process by which atmospheric carbon is captured and
stored by marine environments—is an important opportunity for ecosystem-based
climate mitigation as it preserves the essential ecosystem services of marine
habitats. It was stated that
significant science background and policy reform would be required to develop
this into reality, as valuing the carbon sequestered by coastal ecosystems
would require research into the opportunity costs and market price for
preserving intact coastal ecosystems and the application of offsets and
compensation when coastal ecosystems are to be modified.
In relation to the marine environment, the Committee heard from Dr Nic
Bax, a Research Scientist for CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, about the
need to consider the kinds of governance requirements for translocating
species, so that a translocation could improve the ecosystem function of that
area, and improve the ability of that area to adapt to climate change in
New approaches require new
Requirement for long-term baseline
One of the consistent messages arising out of the evidence presented to
the inquiry was the lack of sufficient long-term baseline environmental
information available to researchers and natural resource managers. This basic
foundation was stated as being vital to many different areas of environmental
management, some of which are canvassed below. The Committee heard that
understanding our biodiversity is critical and that most of our biodiversity is
Current state of environmental
Many inquiry participants described the need for development of the
current state of environmental information available in Australia as an urgent
requirement. While different characterisations were made, all expressed a
common view of the need for a comprehensive, consistent, nationwide database of
environmental information that is widely available for use for different
The following two characterisations focussed on the assessment and
monitoring of the environment, and assessment of the impacts of climate change
on biodiversity loss, and are representative of many views raised:
… there is an urgent need to develop base-line biodiversity
and ecological data to allow assessment of the environmental condition of
Australia at appropriate scales and for the long-term monitoring of performance
against environmental targets.
This should be undertaken in partnership with Indigenous people,
especially those living on the Indigenous estate, who, through long histories
of occupation, are well placed to monitor and report on the ecological impacts
of climate change.
Australia urgently needs to establish a long-term monitoring
and auditing framework for biodiversity across the continent to assess the
impacts of climate change and other drivers of terrestrial, freshwater and
marine biodiversity loss. Australia needs to support the sustainable management
and use of our natural resources through investment in scientific research,
Indigenous knowledge and education.
An expanded Land, Water and Biodiversity authority should be
based on the model pioneered by Land and Water Australia, a core agency
investing in and brokering research. Partnerships and formal alliances with research
organisations in universities, national scientific organisations such as CSIRO,
and others with capacity to undertake and implement research should underpin
the work of such an authority.
The Ecological Society of Australia stated that ‘there is an urgent need
for integrated, long-term ecological monitoring’:
The availability of long-term ecological datasets in the
northern hemisphere has enabled extensive documentation of recent climate and
biological trends. There are fewer datasets from Australia, but they show that
similar impacts are underway’.
The National Parks Australia Council (NPAC) called for a system of
national environmental accounts that includes information on biodiversity so
that it can be managed effectively. Ms Christine Goonrey, President
of NPAC, further stated that an effective national data collection and
reporting system is needed, possibly established similarly to the Australian
Institute of Health and Welfare, which she described as:
where the states and territories come together with the Commonwealth
in an independent body that is responsible for collecting health data and
social service data without any of the political wrangling, and that informs
the states’ roles and of course the Commonwealth’s role in how it can best value-add
to the health services. 
NPAC suggested that ‘ … regional reporting systems [like that
demonstrated in the Australian Alps] could be aggregated into a national
database which informs management and policy development with sound scientific
data’, and further, that the use of sound comparative data and a common review
process will help to address issues such as inappropriate fire management
Mr Matt Ruchel, a member of NPAC, stated that both the biophysical data
and the management and performance issues are important in environmental
monitoring and that one of the problems with the current system is that it is
difficult to compare between jurisdictions and get a clear picture of who is
responsible for what, how much is being spent and whether that money is being
used effectively. The Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS) observed in its submission that it is difficult to articulate
the state of the environment, or address issues spanning jurisdictions and
regions, and it is also difficult to forecast the impact of policy intervention
across environment, economy and society.
The ABS stated that there are many individuals and organisations
collecting environmental information, which results in fragmented sets of data that
definitions and standards
n independence from any
framework facilitating data linkage and interconnectivity
n inconsistent frequency
and timing of produced data
n poor spatial
n low levels of
visibility, discoverability and accessibility
n lack of time series
and therefore lack of stability over time
n poor capacity to
support modelling and forecasting.
The ABS stated
further that the quality and extent of biophysical information on environmental
issues varies from being comprehensive and good quality in relation to temperature
and rainfall to patchy and inconsistent in areas relating to ecosystems, with
national data sets typically unavailable.
Dr Peter Whitehead, an Advisor for NAILSMA, told the Committee that some
work has been done on aggregating climate observations using electronic
monitoring devices called ‘itrackers’, as steps towards trying to amalgamate
the scientific approach with the traditional approach.
Understanding climate change
As well as noting the importance of collecting baseline environmental
information for a variety of uses, the Committee heard that national
coordination and a large increase in funding is required for the effort to
understand the impacts on biodiversity of climate change, including the rising
carbon dioxide concentration. Associate Professor Mark
Hovenden, from the University of Tasmania, also stated in his submission that
this could be achieved by the establishment of a national repository or
database of published information on the responses of native species and
ecosystems to the increasing carbon dioxide, which database could also indicate
current areas of research activity. Associate Professor Hovenden
… there has been an overemphasis on funding research into
climate change adaptation well before we understand the impacts well enough for
that adaptation research to be effective for and relevant to Australia’s
The Committee heard also from the Department of Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPAC) that it is important
to build the knowledge base on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and
to provide tools for the decision makers and natural resource managers to be
able to act based on the best available information.
DSEWPAC advised that the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
(NCCARF) had developed plans for research into marine, terrestrial and
freshwater environments and their management:
Further research will improve our understanding of climate change
impacts, likely responses of species and ecosystems and their outlook over
time, and this knowledge can be continually incorporated into policy, planning
and management practices.
The Committee heard from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative
Research Centre (ACE CRC) that climate modelling experiments can provide vital
information about potential environmental change, and can also provide the
basis for assessing impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
ACE CRC described the Climate Futures for Tasmania project as the most
comprehensive climate modelling project of its kind yet undertaken in
Australia, with the methodologies being applicable to all of Australia.
Mr John Gunn, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of
Marine Science stated that the Australian Government should focus on measuring
the long-term baseline, just as has been done for the atmosphere at the Bureau
of Meteorology (BOM) Cape Grim baseline air pollution station in Tasmania.
The Terrestrial Biodiversity Research Adaptation Network discussed the
… ensure that the necessary resources for long-term
monitoring, evaluation and data infrastructure are in place, co-ordinated and
have guaranteed longevity to provide reliable and comprehensive access to the
information necessary for effective and timely decision making.
The Australian Seed Bank Partnership suggested that an independent
consultative process into future funding and stewardship could assist in
ensuring that there is investment in a wider range of research on biodiversity
and climate change.
The Committee heard from AIATSIS of the benefits of regional
coordination of information, and that:
[i]nvestment into regionally appropriate social and
environmental monitoring and evaluation systems would enable groups to identify
how effective their activities are in delivering biodiversity outcomes and
monitoring climate changes. As a result, development of climate change
adaptation strategies based on aggregated monitoring and evaluation information.
AIATSIS further suggested that:
Funding for equipment and training in environmental
monitoring supported by strong information management frameworks is also an
ongoing necessity. Ensuring ranger programs have the capacity and to engage
with the research and innovation sector is also important to ongoing
improvement in practice and knowledge transfer. This requires strong research
agreements based on ethical research practices and benefit sharing that build
the capacity of and transfer knowledge to ranger groups to ensure best practice
management of country.
The Committee heard that the level of funding provided to the Australian
Research Council is not high enough, that perhaps 15 per cent of researchers in
Australia receive funding from it, with a small percentage of those researchers
being ecologists. Professor French, from
the Ecological Society, further stated that a lot of the funding from Caring
for our Country is for on-ground works rather than research, and that we need
to be more organised and strategic about providing funds to research the
questions that need to be answered. Further, knowledge base
requirements should be separated from on-ground requirements, and the right funding
balance needs to be understood.
The Healesville Environment Watch stated that a substantial increase in
investment in biodiversity and ecosystem protection, restoration and management
was required, as well as the establishment of an independent, widely
consultative process into future funding and stewardship of biodiversity.
In order to do this, its members support the Boobook Declaration in its call
for restoration and increased ‘ … capacity for publicly funded biodiversity
research, auditing, monitoring, accounting and communication, including through
an expanded independent Land, Water and Biodiversity Authority’.
The Academy of Science stated that a national effort is needed to
describe the species that are affected by climate change and their complex
interactions with the environment. The Academy sees it as
vital to find out the important refugia to conserve biodiversity in a changing
climate, how these should be appropriately managed, and what species will need
to and be able to disperse to new locations. The Academy emphasised
that if we do not fill in gaps in our knowledge of the species affected by
climate change and their interaction with the environment, then our efforts to
protect and conserve biodiversity will be flawed.
The Academy also stated that better funding is required for fundamental
research supporting management programs and conservation strategies, including finding
out what the most appropriate species and ecosystem indicators for climate
change are and how they should best be monitored, with ongoing monitoring being
vital. The Academy went on to
say that we need to:
n build baseline
datasets with key indicators, to measure biodiversity conditions and trends
n build a national set
of long-term monitoring protocols and sites
n catalogue, study and
understand the variety and diversity of undiscovered species.
WALGA stated that further research is required to ensure that areas
retained to connect conservation reserves facilitate movement across the
landscape, such research being to:
n determine species’
responses to climate change
n identify potential
n identify species that
are likely to persist in local areas
n understand how
interactions with other threats will affect species’ adaptations.
WALGA noted that it is critical that these research results are clearly
communicated to land managers to allow for adaptive management.
WALGA stated that funding for further research needs to be made
available for medium and long-term studies because most of the current research
programs, including those undertaken through NCCARF, do not provide adequate
funding or time periods for long-term monitoring.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) stated that investment time
frames for ‘people and institutions caring for priority ecosystems are too
short and inconsistent in order to secure long-lasting environmental benefits,
and institutional capabilities’.
The Committee heard that national funding initiatives could be directed
toward museum infrastructure to support the deteriorating collections, and to
attracting more people into studying taxonomy at university.
Dr Jane Fromont, Head of Department of Aquatic Zoology at the Western
Australian Museum also stated that there are very few young taxonomists, that
significant training in this area is required, and that funding should be
redirected to this type of research.
The Committee heard from the Australian Museum that our capabilities in
identifying pest species, for example, are in decline due to an ageing
workforce, restricted funding availability, and a lack of adequate training and
tertiary courses to attract people into taxonomy.
It was suggested that we need to increase our taxonomic capacity if we are to
understand our biodiversity, how it will respond to climate change, how changes
will affect our ecosystems, economy and society, and how we can mitigate the
effects of climate change on our biodiversity.
Dr Bax of CSIRO echoed the observation that there is a critical lack of
alpha taxonomy done in museums. Mr Gunn of the
Australian Institute of Marine Science also stated:
The possibility … is that genetics will be the answer … At
some stage, rather than having to write the colour of its eyes and the size of
it, you may be able to scratch it and get a gene tissue sample and within
seconds have it on your laptop or your iPhone.
The Committee heard about DNA
technology being utilised at the Melbourne Museum that is making it possible to
identify the source of previously unknown specimens.
The Australian Museum suggested that the challenge of species
identification could be partially addressed by technological developments such
as a molecular approach, but that an integrative and prioritised approach to
improving our taxonomical capabilities, with appropriate emphasis placed on
education and training, is required.
Dr Karen Miller, secretary of AMSA, explained the need for appropriate
resources to train the next generation of marine scientists, in order that we
have the skills to continue doing necessary research and gathering information
into the future. The need to increase
community understanding of the importance of marine science and encourage
philanthropic support of some of the research was highlighted as important, and
an approach that is very apparent overseas.
In a marine environment context, the Australian Museum called for more
resources for state museums to document biodiversity.
Dr Hutchings gave as an example the need to appropriately identify marine
invasive species: ‘First of all, we must accurately identify which are invasive
species and which are undescribed native species’.
The Committee heard of the important relationship between research
capacity and adaptive management for climate change. The WRAFBARN, in its
submission, stated that there is no strong leadership in research coordination
in the water sector, and that the closure of Land and Water Australia in 2009 resulted
in the loss of a key research purchaser and agency that was able to respond to
government policy and program needs. It was suggested that a
partnership model of research delivery could be effective in providing the
knowledge needs for adaptive management of climate change.
The Committee heard from Dr Bax that promoting research coordination
requires providing useful information to government and stakeholders by working
in partnership to discover what the research questions are, and providing open
data access, through national infrastructure like the Australian Ocean Data
Network used for collecting oceanographic data.
The Committee heard that the ACE CRC made sure that all of the
information from its climate modelling project was made publicly available, and
it worked closely with the Tasmanian government to ensure that the same
information was available to and being used by the government.
Dr Anthony Press, Chief Executive Officer of ACE CRC, also stated that it will
cease to exist in 2014 and it does not have the capacity to continue this
climate modelling work as an ongoing program, further indicating that climate
services will be very important in the future and the responsibility should
fall between the functions of the BOM and the CSIRO.
Dr Press further stated that one of the big challenges for Australia is to have
the resources and the capacity—which we do not have at the moment—to provide
detailed climate services to farming communities, water holders and natural
Dr Bax described the need to promote the gradual change that is happening
in the scientific community in relation to the sharing of information and
ensuring that information is collected in a common format so that is can be
shared. Dr Bax further stated
that this requires educating scientists and encouraging them to undertake
broader national collaborations, looking to a common set of data being
collected around the country, which will inform national environmental
Prof Edward Lefroy of the University of Tasmania suggested that citizen
science initiatives provided useful opportunities to access local observations
and expertise and that expertise could be used in larger scale analyses.
Dr Press of ACE CRC suggested that the Range Extension and Database Mapping
(REDMAP) project could be duplicated in areas outside of marine ecosystems.
A number of other citizen science initiatives were canvassed during the course
of the inquiry, including the BOM, which has over 100 years of records, many of
which have been collected by volunteers, and BirdLife Australia, where many
volunteers have a standard method to input information into their databases.
Prof Lefroy observed that it is beyond the capacity of most institutions to set
up ideal monitoring scenarios, ‘but we can tap into the local expertise’.
The Australian Seed Bank Partnership stated that there needs to be
greater support for longitudinal studies as part of applied research; that
greater research is needed on the monitoring and evaluation of restoration
activities; and that findings from such longitudinal research need to be made publicly
available and accessible to inform and guide future practices.
The Partnership also stated that three-year grants do not consider the need for
research using such different time frames as biological processes or climatic
cycles. The Partnership also called for ongoing investment in the development
and maintenance of biological collections like seed banks, herbaria and botanic
gardens, with biological collections being physical databases that support the
understanding of the variability of biodiversity.
In highlighting the need for further research into the impact of rising
carbon dioxide levels on specific organisms and ecosystems, Associate Professor
Hovenden explained that further research should proceed in a different manner
than has been conducted previously, which was for specific purposes, locally
driven and in an unstable environment due to short-term funding cycles.
The Committee heard evidence that, in relation to various biodiversity research
areas, a 10 year funding cycle is much more suitable than a three year cycle.
Associate Professor Hovenden described the need for a 10 year experiment on the
impacts of increasing carbon dioxide levels on native heathlands to be
conducted with multiple institutions nationwide.
The Committee heard about the International Tundra Experiment undertaken
by the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology (RCAAE) with Australian Research
Council funding, with the research showing that ‘fewer species are able to
survive as you go to a higher altitude’. Representatives of the
Centre described the challenge of maintaining long‑term monitoring in
order to assess the results as circumstances change.
The Committee heard that, in contrast with the 200-year records that
have been kept in the United States, data on monitoring of the timing of
flowering and the timing of seed sets of species in Australia is available from
the 1940s, and that monitoring of the timing of flowering and the timing of
seed sets in alpine plants only started six years ago.
The Committee was told about the long history of ecological research on
land use in the Australian Alps, research which could be useful when observing
the effects of climate change. The RCAAE, in its submission, identified a need
for further investment in the research infrastructure—namely the network of
plots across the entire area—given the dramatic changes expected and the value
of long-term monitoring in decision making. In representing the
Centre, Prof Hoffmann explained the purpose of the plots is to ensure necessary
data is obtained to effectively make adaptive management decisions.
Prof Hoffmann also described the need for continuity of funding, and a longer
term funding cycle, in order to train people to a certain level of expertise.
He explained that:
… this year, for the first time, we have finally been able to
separate those two effects from a scientifically rigorous point of view. We can
finally say: ‘This is due to climate change and this is due to grazing. It is
very clear what sort of patterns you are going to get.’ That has only happened
because of these long-term plots.
The Committee heard from Professor Graham Edgar of the Institute for
Marine and Antarctic Studies that, from a monitoring perspective, it is
critical to have areas of no fishing and areas of fishing in marine protected
areas, in order to track the changes occurring in the different areas and be
able to disentangle the effects of fishing from the effects of climate change.
The ABS stated that ‘[i]t is widely recognised that the information used
to support policy development and decision-making in relation to Australia’s
environment is inadequate’, and that we need to commit to a lengthy time series
of comparable data. Mr Sullivan, Acting
Deputy Secretary of DSEWPAC, acknowledged that the environment field is far
behind economics and social policy in terms of data collection.
The Committee is aware of the National Plan for Environmental
Information (the Plan), a whole-of-government initiative to improve quality and
coverage of environmental information, aiming to:
n develop national
n identify potential
gaps in our existing environmental information capabilities
n develop an
Environmental Information System to collate, manage and provide public access
to national environmental datasets
n in the first four
years—from 2010—establish the BOM as the Australian Government Authority for
environmental information and begin building priority national environmental
datasets and the infrastructure to deliver them.
Mr Sullivan explained that the Plan is aimed at trying to build the
credibility of environment data, get access to the data that is already
collected and make it more transparent and open, building on the monitoring
regimes that are in place and building the capability so it is long-term.
The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary
Education (DIISRTE) stated that it invests in eResearch infrastructure for the
research sector to address data management, sharing, access and availability of
data, capture, aggregation, transmission, storage and reuse, and the sharing of
data between sectors. The Australian National
Data Service promotes access to public sector data sets, finds and transforms
data to structured collections, with its Research Data Storage Infrastructure
project building a national network of distributed data stores to enable ready
access to research data for universities, research institutions and individual
researchers. The Australian Research
and Education Network, National Research Network project connects universities,
central and remote research institutions, and to overseas national research
networks, these connections being described as essential to the movements of
environmental and biodiversity research data, including that collected through the
Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and from the Terrestrial Ecosystem
Research Network (TERN).
The Committee heard of the need to renew investment in our natural
capital, and that an ‘effective monitoring network would be best achieved via a
national collaborative program with a commitment to ongoing, adequate
The ABS stated that it is capable of contributing to information requirements
related to managing biodiversity in a changing climate, stating that
information should be spatially explicit, comparable across multiple time
periods and linked to relevant socioeconomic data.
The ABS described its experience in the measurement of economic, social and
environmental matters, and particularly ‘the development of integrated
information systems so that … data on environmental performance can be linked
to the various socioeconomic factors that affect ecosystems, and which are themselves
impacted by changes in biodiversity’.
The ABS explained that a comprehensive national environmental
information system should have essential biophysical information on the state
of the environment and complementary socioeconomic information on drivers,
pressures, impacts and responses, with the information integrated by the use of
common definitions, concepts, classifications and frameworks, in order that it
can be considered in policy formulation and other decision making.
The ABS stated that it was contributing to the development of the United
Nations’ System of Environmental-Economic Accounting, which includes the
development of standardised ecosystem reporting through Land and Ecosystems
Accounting. The ABS also discussed
its own Land Accounts, describing them as powerful tools that can be used for
planning by industry, government and the community, and its Water Accounts,
stating that they provide a much clearer picture for policymakers.
In its submission, ACF recommended that information about the
environment be integrated into Australia’s national accounts in order to drive
government decision making by ensuring adequate resourcing and support of the Plan
to deliver a set of national environmental accounts.
Dr Paul Sinclair, Program Manager of the Healthy Ecosystems Program at ACF, was
concerned that the work to create national environmental accounts was ‘not
proceeding with the urgency required’. Dr Sinclair called for
the accounts to be built ‘from the bottom up’, and be consistent across regions
and states, noting that they require ‘additional resources’ and ‘additional
political momentum’ to deliver. Dr Sinclair stated the
importance of making the accounts simple to start with so they are easy to
understand in the community, building sophistication over time.
Dr Sinclair further stated that regional NRM organisations, work related
to regional NRM strategies, and ABS and government programs should be used as
opportunities to collect data to feed into the national system, ensuring that
the data being collected to measure progress is consistent and can be simply
Atlas of Living Australia
The Atlas makes biodiversity information available online to a national
audience. The data originates from museums and herbaria, BirdLife Australia and
other biological collections, as well as from IMOS and from TERN projects. The
Atlas also provides data to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Dr
John La Salle, Director of the Atlas, told the Committee that the Atlas was
officially funded until June 2012, with an agreement in place allowing any
unspent funds to be carried over to June 2013.
In its submission, the Atlas stated the potential scope of the database:
Australia’s biological collections actually represent the
most significant potential source of historical data—with over 60
million specimens held in collections Australia-wide and only about 20 per
cent of these being digitised and therefore available via the Atlas. The Atlas
has been funded for the provision of infrastructure and is now capable
of mobilising collection data whenever additional digitalisation activities
within institutions can be funded.
The Atlas described the success of the ‘rapid digitisation’ project run
by the South Australian and Australian Museums, which incorporates volunteers
in the transcript of specimen labels, field notebooks and other materials—with
over 16 000 specimens being fully digitised by over 100 volunteers.
The Volunteer Digitisation Project (DigiVol) run through the Australian
Museum, with initial funding from the Atlas and short term funding now being
provided by the Australian Museum Foundation makes label data accessible
without having to go to the physical collection, and uses volunteers to
transcribe the labels. Also initially funded
by the Atlas, the South Australian Museum uses volunteers to photograph and
database the holotypes from the Terrestrial Invertebrate Collection.
The Atlas stated that data can be used to analyse the historical and
potential distribution of species, given a range of environmental factors, and
generate predictive models. The Atlas indicated
that it would welcome the opportunity to incorporate future climate change
scenarios and additional analysis tools that would allow the impacts of climate
change on biodiversity to be studied.
The Atlas stated that there was an opportunity to combine its base
species data with IMOS, TERN and other National Collaborative Research
Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) funded data. Many submitters referred
to the Atlas as providing a good base for environmental information that can be
expanded to cater to environmental information requirement needs in a changing
The Australian Seed Bank Partnership stated the key priorities for
future ongoing investment in the integration and accessibility of biodiversity
data as being:
operational stability for the nationally significant data sets which support
research, policy and education’—wider adoption of the Atlas is hampered by the
perceived instability of its funding model
n using the Atlas
infrastructure to build a comprehensive national biodiversity reference data
set to support research and decision making.
The Committee heard that the Australian Seed Bank Partnership and the
Atlas are working together to create national standards for recording data on
wild species collections, and to build an accessible online seed resource to
support conservation, restoration ecology and plant diversity research in
Dr Brian Lassig, Assistant Director of the Research and Collections
Division at the Australian Museum stated that ‘collaborative research using
information from a variety of sources is becoming increasingly important.’
Therefore, ‘the imperative of making our information available, accessible and
useful is a very strong driver for us at the moment, and the atlas provides us
with a vehicle to do that.’ The Committee heard
from the CSIRO of the need for the Atlas to develop the capability of being
able to draw out temporal data in order to understand how species distribution
and abundance has changed, for it to provide a useful resource in future.
The Australian Museum strongly supported the continued funding of
existing integrative platforms such as the Atlas.
Dr Hutchings said that if she was funded to update the information she provides
to the Atlas she would update it every year, whereas it probably would not
happen if she was left to do so for free. Dr Hutchings said further
that the Atlas was looking to cooperative ventures and at alternative ways of
AMSA explained to the Committee that shallow waters are better
understood than deep sea waters because it is more difficult and expensive to
study the deep sea. It was noted by Dr Miller of AMSA that the deep sea will be
one of the first ecosystems to be affected by climate change.
Dr Miller described the means of addressing those data gaps as one of the
greatest challenges for the organisation:
… our prediction of what will happen from the marine
biodiversity perspective is really limited by a lack of knowledge in most
ecosystems. And so not understanding the diversity or the ecology properly
certainly limits our ability to predict what might happen … 
The Committee also heard that the limited investment in large-scale and
long-term monitoring of Australia’s marine living resources in the past has
meant that our baseline knowledge of the distribution of many species is poor
or unknown. AMSA advised the
Committee of the Reef Life Survey, which aims to improve biodiversity
conservation and management through producing high-quality survey information.
According to AMSA, funding towards the Reef Life Survey and monitoring
mechanisms such as IMOS needs to be improved in order to have the capacity to
generate the knowledge required to effectively manage biodiversity in a
changing climate. The Committee heard from
Associate Professor Neil Holbrook that it is essential that IMOS continue into
The Committee heard that conservation measures will need to be adaptive
as new information becomes available. As an example, the boundaries of existing
MPAs may need to be flexible, as our current knowledge of many marine
ecosystems and species is basic. The Australian Museum described
the need for a system which allows for the boundaries of the marine parks to be
changed as climate changes start to impact upon marine ecosystems (for example,
when species have to move south).
The Committee heard from Dr Hobday at CSIRO that funding coordination of
climate change programs, in a marine context, is difficult because of the
different avenues to research through numerous bodies including the Australian
Research Council, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Australian
Fisheries Management Authority and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Forestry. Dr Hobday also stated
that revegetation of marine environments, including salt marshes, Important
Bird Areas, seagrass meadows and kelp forests, is not covered under the Biodiversity
Fund. Dr Hobday further
stated that current funding for NCCARF marine adaptation finishes in June 2013.
Multi-disciplinary approaches to
biodiversity conservation in a changing climate
Multi-disciplinary approaches to biodiversity conservation were
discussed at length throughout the inquiry, with inquiry participants outlining
the need for consistent cross-sectoral government policies, integrated environmental
and socioeconomic development, integrated appropriate land use planning with
NRM planning, integrated coastal management, integrated national databases and Indigenous
engagement in NRM and economic development. These issues are discussed briefly
WALGA outlined a number of collaborative and coordinated approaches to
biodiversity management, including:
integration and coordination to ensure consistency in policies and management
actions of sectors, governments and departments
stakeholders in planning, implementing, evaluating and improving programs for
n developing national
legislation and/or state planning policies that facilitate the effective
implementation of appropriate adaptive land use planning mechanisms.
WALGA further outlined the importance of integrating land use planning
with NRM planning for the sustainability of environmental assets. The Perth
Biodiversity Project (as discussed in chapter four) provides local governments
with access to spatial environmental information through a central online
access point, rather than having to go through each individual agency, which is
useful in the early stages of land use planning.
CSIRO stated that future economic development is linked with
environmental and social considerations. In relation to marine
ecosystems, CSIRO described some benefits of developing a Blue Economy, including:
n providing protection
and restoration of ocean ecosystems and biodiversity
n recognising and adopting
ocean and coastal carbon sinks and creating a ‘blue carbon’ trading market
n integrated coastal
management and adaptation to sea level rise and climate change.
In relation to freshwater biodiversity, the Committee heard about the
need for collaboration on adaptation initiatives and programs by affected
sectors, including primary industries, water management and use,
infrastructure, and settlement development and use. According to WRAFBARN, such
collaborations should take into account economic and social factors, ensure
investments are well directed, and aim to avoid perverse outcomes.
Dr Hobday from the CSIRO stated that species are moving south along the
coastline, and if refugia are located in areas where coastal development is
proceeding rapidly, opportunities to look after those areas will be lost.
The Committee heard that cross-sectoral government policies should
better align with Indigenous aspirations and environmental and conservation
goals. The Committee heard
that, for example, in terms of securing access to carbon on a pastoral lease, the
Carbon Farming Initiative recognises people with registered native title
interests but not claims in process. The Committee also
heard of the need to integrate biodiversity conservation with Indigenous social
and economic development. Jointly managed parks such as Kakadu National Park,
and Indigenous Protected Areas provide good examples, but, according to Dr
Whitehead of NAILSMA, they need to be spread wider through the landscape.
Dr Whitehead explained that income can drive the capacity to adapt, and
that for Indigenous peoples who are looking for a means to get back onto their
country and to meet their obligations to it, programs such as the Carbon Farming
Initiative and Working on Country increase that potential.
Dr Whitehead further stated that ‘any talk of improved governance will require incentives
that give real reasons for Indigenous people … to integrate their search for
livelihoods on their country with these efforts to protect biodiversity’.
Conclusions and recommendations
The Committee understands the importance of implementing climate change
adaptation strategies that are integrated between levels of government,
regional bodies and local communities. Society must be ready to adapt as climate
changes continue to affect the current state of our environment. Climate change
mitigation strategies should consolidate focus on future biodiversity
objectives, include a national approach to research and environmental
monitoring, prioritise development of national environmental and biodiversity
datasets, and incorporate future climate modelling and forecasting.
Mitigation strategies are an important part of lessening the inevitable
impacts of climate change on the environment and must incorporate, most
importantly, an effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and effectively
manage our existing environmental stressors. Increasing the resilience of
ecosystems and human communities will also strengthen the capacities of these
systems to deal with climate changes. Significant development of resilience
projects is still required, and the Committee encourages the Australian
Government to provide adequate long-term funding for programs currently
underway, and those in development.
There is a pressing requirement to collect long-term baseline
environmental information. The Committee heard that ‘long term ecological
research ‘has been poorly funded in this country.’
Not only is there a lack of data, but the ongoing need to reapply for
funding also has a detrimental effect on long term research. The time spent
seeking funding deducts from time which could be spent on the actual research.
Further, the system creates perverse incentives:
Over the 10 years I have run the TasFACE experiment, I have
had to reinvent it three times, since grants are for three years only and each
subsequent grant must demonstrate and test new ideas and be innovative.
Continuing an important long-term experiment is very difficult under such
In the course of site inspections, the Committee discussed some
long-term data collection projects, including:
n long-term phenology
monitoring alpine plots and International Tundra Experiment plots as part of
TERN in the NSW Snowy Mountains region, and the ideal of a longer term funding
n regular bird surveys
undertaken by volunteer birdwatchers, contributing their data to the Atlas of
Australian Birds—a long-term BirdLife Australia project;
n the need for such
projects in Kakadu National Park and the potential for further development of
collaborative partnerships in this area;
n long-term altitudinal
gradient monitoring and remote sensor towers set up to measure environmental
factors relating to drought and fire patterns, as well as species distribution
modelling at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory in Tropical North Queensland.
The Committee urges the Australian Government to support the long term continuation
of such vitally important projects, and support the instigation of new ones
that are identified as being required for collection of long-term baseline
environmental data in order to monitor and assess the effects of climate change
The Committee is concerned about the apparent lack of environmental
information that has been collected and documented, particularly in the marine
environment. The Committee is also concerned that it is hard to quantify and
qualify the information that has been collected and documented because of the
inaccessibility and fragmented nature of that collected data.
The Committee is further concerned about the lack of long-term
environmental monitoring data collected to date. The Committee sees sustained
collection of this data as a priority for the Australian Government, in order
to establish comprehensive environmental accounts which provide an accurate
picture of the state of the environment, therefore helping to adequately
adaptively manage our biodiversity in a changing climate. The Committee
understands, however, that extended funding carries extended responsibilities.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
ensure funding cycles for environmental and biodiversity data collection
programs are long enough to allow a proper baseline to be developed. This may
be up to 10 years.
The Committee also recommends that funded research needs to
comply with proper governance requirements such as reporting, acquittal, and
ensuring that the original project goals are still being met.
A national biodiversity database
The Committee acknowledges that the National Plan for Environmental
Information aims to create and integrate useful, comprehensive, consistent and
nationally coordinated environmental accounts. The Committee recognises that
the BOM and DSEWPAC are scoping the requirements for development of national
environmental accounts. In November 2011, the Government commissioned an Independent
Review of Australian Government Environmental Information Activity, which
reported in November 2012. To the Committee, the Review appears to be a roadmap
for operationalising the National Plan for Environmental Information. Its
n improving Government
coordination, both within and across agencies;
n prioritising policy
requirements based on significance across government, the work required and
n developing workplans
to support these policy requirements;
n engaging the states
and territories; and
n addressing technical
and legal barriers.
The Committee is of the view that the recommendations of the Independent
Review are timely and provide the Government with practical ways in which the
Plan can be realised. The Government is considering the Review’s
recommendations; the Committee would like to see them implemented.
Another feature of the Plan is that some time has elapsed since it was
announced in May 2010. The fact that it is taking time to implement is not
surprising given the scale of the task and the innovation required. Because of
this, the Committee sees value in the lead agencies publishing information
about project scope and timelines as a means of encouraging timely implementation.
Finally, the type of information that the Plan collects needs to be
relevant to users, which will be a broad cross-section of the Australian
community, but with particular priority to scientists and other technical
experts. The Independent Review focussed on consultation and coordination
within the Australian Government. The Committee believes that consultation with
users will also be very important. The Committee did receive evidence from the
scientific community about the sorts of features that such a database should
have, including data on species, seeds, species distribution, connectivity and
refugia. However, these requirements may change over time and also the best
people to articulate these requirements are the users themselves. Therefore,
the Committee would like to see that robust consultation processes inform key
decisions in the design and operation of the Plan.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
ensures the success of the National Plan for Environmental Information by:
the recommendations of the Independent Review of Australian Government Environmental
information about project scope and timelines as a means of helping the Plan
being conducted in a timely manner
widely with the scientific community and other stakeholders, such as the
Australian Bureau of Statistics, on the design of the Plan.
The Committee understands that the science of adaptation to climate
change is still developing, and recognises the need for a well-structured
approach to adaptation to assist future decision-making. The Committee
recognises the importance of longitudinal data sources in this regard.
The Atlas of Living Australia has made its mark and the Committee heard
a great deal of evidence about how it is assisting researchers in describing
Australia’s biodiversity. The Atlas was funded to June 2012 and has been
allowed to carry over unspent funds until June 2013. Although it has received a
great deal of support across the sector, this has been limited by the perceived
instability of its funding model. The Committee also notes that the Atlas is
examining other means of securing funding, such as cooperative ventures.
The Committee believes there is value in continuing the Atlas and that
it will most likely continue in some form or another. However, the Committee
believes that the contribution that the Atlas can make is very significant and
that this will be placed at risk unless it can secure longer term resources.
Therefore, the Committee supports the provision of further public funding for
the time being, provided the Atlas develops a suitable funding model for the
future. The Committee also believes that the Australian Government can provide
support to the Atlas in developing a sustainable funding model, such as
identifying possible partners outside the environmental sector.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work
with the Atlas to develop a sustainable funding model for it, which could
include the involvement of non-government partners.
The Committee would like to see further progress made on incorporating biological
data into national environmental and biodiversity datasets. The Committee acknowledges
that there are projects underway involving digitisation of already collected
data—such as the Volunteer Digitisation Projects through the Australian Museum
and the South Australian Museum discussed above. The Committee considers that
the Australian Government should prioritise the digitisation of Australia’s
biological specimens, and provide funding for that purpose.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
provide funding to the CSIRO and Atlas of Living Australia to:
the current level of digitisation of biological collections in Australia
the digitisation of biological data into the Atlas.
Over the years, this Committee has regularly received evidence about the
shortage of taxonomists and that those who remain in the profession are nearing
retirement. Once again, the Committee received evidence to this effect during
the inquiry. It is obvious to the Committee that the biodiversity impacts of
climate change cannot be properly managed if we have not properly documented
the thousands of species in Australia. The Committee is of the view that action
needs to be taken now so that the knowledge of current practitioners can be
transferred to the next generation of taxonomists.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
consult with the museum and education sectors to develop a strategy to
attract, train, and retain taxonomists.
The Committee agrees with the need to facilitate the involvement of
Indigenous people in biodiversity conservation planning and appropriately use
Indigenous ecological knowledge in biodiversity conservation programs. The
Committee was impressed by the South Australian Department of Environment,
Water and Natural Resources’ approach to incorporating cultural heritage and
Traditional Owner perspectives in formulating biodiversity management
initiatives. The Committee
recommends as follows:
The Committee recommends the Australian Government include a
focus on incorporating Indigenous ecological knowledge into federal
biodiversity conservation and land management programs.
The Committee acknowledges the
importance of further support and development of climate change adaptation
practices in Australia’s response to climate change. The Committee agrees that
ongoing funding for long-term monitoring programs, including for the management
of climate change adaptation initiatives, is important and requires certainty.
As discussed above, the Committee supports the development and funding of the
National Plan for Environmental Information, the Atlas of Living Australia, the
Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums,
the REDMAP project, the Australian Seed Bank Partnership and the extension of
projects such as the Perth Biodiversity Project into other regional areas. The
Committee recommends that the Australian Government continue funding these
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
continue funding the Australian Seed Bank Partnership.
In closing, the Committee would also like to recognise the important
work being conducted by CRCs in this field. During the inquiry, the Committee
noted that the CRCs it dealt with are collaborating more with organisations and
researchers internationally. The Committee regards this as a positive
development and a natural extension of their work. The Committee does not wish
to make a specific recommendation on this point, but would like to place on the
record its view that CRCs and the wider Australian public benefit from CRCs
working with international partners.