5 What can we expect?

While the Government of South Australia and its agencies are putting policies and programs in place to address the most pressing issues that are challenging biodiversity in South Australia, we will continue to see the effects of existing and past pressures for many years to come. Despite our efforts, many of the causes of biodiversity decline remain present. Some historical biodiversity loss may never be fully recovered, but it is possible to more effectively reduce future decline and to undertake focused restoration of important habitats to reduce further loss, degradation and fragmentation. This would require more effective responses to conventional threats such as invasive species and the unsustainable use and management of natural resources, as well as to more recent and emerging threats such as climate change. In addition, new pressures are emerging that will further challenge biodiversity and management practices.

5.1 Climate change

The 2011 Australian state of the environment report (State of the Environment 2011 Committee 2011) notes that climate change is likely to magnify the effects of existing pressures on biodiversity in coming decades. For example, the interactions of climate change with newly arrived pests and diseases has the potential to create pressures that are far stronger and more widespread than those currently experienced in Australia.

5.2 Alternative energy

The 2011 Australian state of the environment report identifies increased pressure from human energy needs such as land conversion for biofuels and carbon sequestration technologies like biochar as possible future challenges for biodiversity management (State of the Environment 2011 Committee 2011).

5.3 Information

It is widely recognised that there is not enough ongoing (especially long-term) monitoring information available in a form to support policy development and decision-making in relation to targeting, monitoring and evaluating investments in natural resources.

The South Australian Government is developing a regionally based NRM reporting framework that will allow state and regional natural resource managers to use the same information to make informed planning decisions. Decisions about where and how to invest will be improved by assessing the effectiveness of current and future investments against ecological, social and economic targets, and measures of the condition of natural resources.

The framework will ensure that information will be collected and used regionally, and the same information will then be aggregated to deliver credible, consistent and easily interpreted measures of natural resource health for the state. The framework will thereby underpin high-level investment in NRM programs and be used to regularly report on the state of the environment.

Key to this framework is the development of clearly articulated targets and indicators that are measurable and reflective of the condition of the natural resources. Without targets that can be measured, there is no way of comparing the cost-effectiveness of investments in different projects or management efforts. Information on these targets must be comparable: 1) across different times, 2) between different natural resources and 3) between different parts of the state. Only then can targets be used to guide when, and to what extent, to invest in the improvement of natural resources, and when to stop investing.

The success of the new approach will depend on an unprecedented level of whole-of-government cooperation and commitment, and on the long-term commitment of the South Australian Government.

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