A composite threat indicator approach to monitor vegetation condition in the Wet Tropics, Queensland, Australiaby Petina L. Pert, James R.A. Butler, Caroline Bruce, Daniel Metcalfe

Ecological Indicators


Decision Sciences (all) / Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics / Ecology


Ecological Indicators 18 (2012) 191–199

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Ecological Indicators journa l homepage: www.e lsev ier .com

A comp ito

Wet Tr

Petina L. l Me a CSIRO Ecosyst lia b CSIRO Ecosys c CSIRO Ecosyst a r t i c l

Article history:

Received 12 A

Received in re 13 November

Accepted 14 N



Vegetation condition



Composite threat index


Wet Tropics of prev y foc ple sc d den anag d We ch al subregional scale. Using this approach we identified that the overall vegetation condition of the Wet

Tropics in the period 2003–2007 was ‘good’, but at a finer scale five of the bioregions nine subregions had ‘moderate’ condition, and only four had ‘good’ condition. The primary threat contributing to the ‘moderate’ condition was vegetation fragmentation due to clearing for agriculture, housing and related transport infrastructure. The composite threat index approach provided managers with a report card 1. Introdu

Many co tion in the and nation http://www able effort meeting th dence sugg et al., 2010 measurable egy 2010–2 in protectin comes and

Ministerial for governm (NRM) deli ground acti reporting o ∗ Correspon

E-mail add 1470-160X/$ – doi:10.1016/j.Australia for the Wet Tropics landscape which allows rapid assessment of vegetation condition and contributory threats, and thus prioritization for the allocation of limited resources to threatening processes at the subregional scale.

Crown Copyright © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. ction untries have pledged to achieve a significant reduccurrent rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional al level by 2010 (Convention on Biological Diversity, .biodiv.org). This agreement has stimulated considerin developing indicators to monitor progress towards is objective (Mace and Baillie, 2007), but recent eviests that the target has not been achieved (Butchart ). In 2010, the Australian Government set ten national targets in Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strat030 which aim to assess the nation’s performance g the natural environment, supported by clear outmeasureable targets (Natural Resource Management

Council, 2010). Linked to this strategy, Australia’smodel ent-funded regional natural resource management very requires the articulation of regional targets, onons in the context of these targets, and monitoring and f progress. ding author. Tel.: +61 7 4059 5006; fax: +61 7 4055 6338. ress: petina.pert@csiro.au (P.L. Pert).

The evaluation of biodiversity targets depends on the use and development of accurate and robust indicators that can quantify changes in biodiversity over short-time spans and communicate this information to a policy audience (Gregory et al., 2005; Mace and Baillie, 2007; van Strien et al., 2009). Indicators also need to be cost-effective, provide reliable informationon the status and trends of underlying biodiversity components, be informative at multiple extents and resolutions, allow frequent reporting, be meaningful to the public and policy makers, and be responsive to major policy changes (Jones et al., 2011;Normander et al., 2012). However, often theavailabledata sourcesare tooheterogeneousand timeseries too short and patchy for the required uniformity to be reached. In these cases, different visual summaries in the form of arrow, pie, and traffic light symbols have been attempted (Millennium Ecosystem

Assessment, 2005; Chick et al., 2007; Secretariat of the CBD, 2010).

The scientific community now faces the challenge of assessing progress made towards biodiversity targets, monitoring changes through time, and describing the results to decisionmakes onNRM.

It is crucial that progress towards these targets is monitored, but how this should be done has been the subject ofmuch debate.Most of this discussion has been directed at identifying indicators which can illustrate large scale trends in biodiversity (Gregory et al., 2003;

Weber et al., 2004; Balmford et al., 2005a,b; Heer et al., 2005;Mace see front matter. Crown Copyright © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. ecolind.2011.11.018osite threat indicator approach to mon opics, Queensland, Australia

Perta,∗, James R.A. Butlerc, Caroline Bruceb, Danie em Sciences, c/-James Cook University, PO Box 12139, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Austra tem Sciences, PO Box 786, Atherton, Queensland 4883, Australia em Sciences, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia e i n f o pril 2011 vised form 2011 ovember 2011 a b s t r a c t

Many indicators and indices have been scale. However, none have specificall and also incorporated threats atmulti isation, weeds, feral animals and roa collaboration with natural resource m condition in the World Heritage-liste a simple composite threat index whi/ locate /eco l ind r vegetation condition in the tcalfeb iously developed to report biodiversity condition at a regional used on vegetation condition as a surrogate for biodiversity, ales. Using five indicators (forest cover fragmentation, urbansity) identified from the scientific literature and selected in ement (NRM) stakeholders to reflect the state of vegetation t Tropics Bioregion of Queensland, Australia, we constructed lowed the spatial display of information at the regional and 192 P.L. Pert et al. / Ecological Indicators 18 (2012) 191–199 et al., 2005;MillenniumEcosystemAssessment, 2005;Opdamet al., 2008; Butchart et al., 2010), but has not focused on this challenge at a regional scale (Opdam et al., 2008; Reza and Abdullah, 2011).

This is important because anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity operate atd which can r

Anthrop due to thed currently th

While the s regional sca 2010), mos 2004; Schip differences studies hav pogenic thr

Angermeier (Sowa et al ors (Brende considerabl of threaten and species (Sanderson this variatio ing the mo required sp

Vegetati governmen versity outc gained mom 2006;Thack is no single et al., 2001 vegetation condition i tion using as a bench ence of thre or change i 2006).