Natural resources are assets from the planet. They include, water, soil, air, and biodiversity. People value natural resources because they clean and purify air and water, provide food, fibre, fuel and timber, provide tourism and recreation opportunities and for their cultural and historical values.
Natural resource management is the management of activities that use, develop and conserve our air, water, land, plants, animals and ecosystems. Natural Resource Management brings together the planning, allocation, conservation and use of all natural resources to enable a sustainable and prosperous environment, which is the basis of a good quality of life for all, now and in the future.
Natural resource management regions are based on catchments and bioregions. In South Australia there are eight regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australian Murray‐Darling Basin, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands and South East.
The condition of a natural resource refers to how healthy the resource is relative to its pristine unmodified or its sustainable condition. We monitor the condition of a natural resource to understand whether its overall health has changed and to help us assess whether current levels of management are sustaining healthy resource function.
In South Australia, natural resources are central to our way of life. Our agricultural industries need healthy soils and our drinking water supplies rely on clean water from our rivers and aquifers. Our natural areas provide places for recreation and enjoyment, as well important cultural sites for Aboriginal people. The success and productivity of our tourism and primary industries, such as our agriculture, fisheries and forestry, depend upon the health and sustainable management of our natural resources.
Most land is privately owned, so land managers, with support from Government agencies, Natural Resource Management Boards, industry bodies and conservation groups, are working to improve the condition of natural resources and adopting increasingly sustainable management practices to optimise the productive capacity and sustainability of our natural resources.
The Government wants to inform the community about the health of key natural resources, so that the community is more informed and has a greater opportunity to be involved in the management of natural resources, to maintain and improve their condition
local Natural Resources Centre is the best place to discuss opportunities to get involved in the future of your region.
Management decisions about our natural resources (ecological, social, economic or cultural) can be made with greater confidence when we have good information about our resources.
The Reporting Framework outlines a process to report trends in the condition of our natural resources. It aims to:
The Government is currently producing a series of report cards to report against Guiding Targets and associated Representative Measures in the State Natural Resource Management Plan. Where information is available, these report cards will provide regional summaries as well as State‐wide summaries of the same information. Report cards allow us to communicate information relating to trends in the condition of natural resources to all South Australians, including resource managers, planners and the general public. The report cards highlight the challenges and opportunities we all face in balancing our own demands for food and fibre with the needs of nature.
The report cards are being written and structured so they are broadly accessible to the South Australian community and high‐level decision makers, such as government Ministers and staff who manage our natural resources. The report cards provide information on the benefits that people derive from natural resources, some of the management activities that are undertaken by landholders, NRM Boards and government staff and some of the challenges they face.
The South Australian Government is committed to improving public participation in the management of our natural resources. The report cards provide balanced and objective information to assist the South Australian community in understanding the challenges and opportunities of managing natural resources. Increased public participation is widely recognised as best practice, because it fosters a sense of public ownership of natural resources.
It is anticipated that the report cards will be regularly updated to reflect the current state of knowledge about natural resources. Updates will be published even if information relating to the condition of some natural resources does is not available each year.
Where information relating to the condition of a natural resource is considered inadequate, we will assess the need to develop additional monitoring projects that address knowledge gaps. This will involve consultation with experts, the potential development of new indicators to monitor resource condition and/or building on existing information.
State of Environment report for South Australia aims to report on the condition of natural resources and threats to them, and also to review the effectiveness of management initiatives undertaken by Government. The 2013 State of Environment report made a single recommendation– that Government collect better information on the condition of natural resources, including information that allows analyses of trends in the condition of natural resources and evaluation of management activities.
NRM Reporting Framework aims to meet some of these needs, by outlining a process to collect information on the condition of natural resources, threats to them and management of them. Information collected under the NRM Reporting Framework is designed to be suitable to be summarised for the State of Environment report.
The initial set Report Cards is tightly focused on the priorities of the
State Natural Resource Management Plan 2012. By reporting on the entire State NRM Plan the report cards will help natural resource managers to identify and prioritise knowledge gaps. A key point of difference with the State of Environment report is that the initial set report cards will not review the effectiveness of Government management programs. Instead, the initial set report cards will provide a picture of broad‐scale, long term trends in the condition of natural resources and key threats to them, as well as key management activities.
The 2013 State of Environment report also notes the need for more effective tools to visualise information on the condition of natural resources. A key aim of the report cards is to improve the accessibility of information and they are being written and structured with this in mind. For example, the report cards make use of simple graphs and maps as the principal tools to display information.
Natural resources are assets from the planet. They include, water, soil, air, and biodiversity.
A threat or an issue may impact on the condition of a resource (e.g. some pest species impact our wetlands). Reporting on the health of our natural resource assets reports on the outcome of our actions or inaction and gives a better guide to the effectiveness of our natural resources management.
By monitoring natural resources, the effectiveness of management measures can be assessed against any future changes in the condition of that natural resource. If monitoring indicates that resource condition has been maintained or improved this may be used as evidence to demonstrate that the management strategies and investments have most likely been effective.
The initial sets of report cards are based on the priorities that are listed in the
State Natural Resource Management Plan 2012.
Methods used by the Reporting Framework enable information to be aggregated and disaggregated, depending on the scale at which it was collected. This means that finer spatial scale information (e.g. bioregion/catchment) can be incorporated. Report cards do not yet disaggregate information on the condition of natural resources to this level of spatial detail but this may be achieved in the future when the information is available.
In some cases, the regional‐scale trends for a particular natural resource in a particular NRM region may not reflect trends in the condition of that resource at each and every location in the same NRM region. The initial set report cards provides broad, regional‐scale trends in the condition of natural resources to give context to the changes in the condition of natural resources at finer scales (e.g. NRM sub‐regions and paddocks), as well as across regions and across Australia
Natural resource indicators are simple measures that give us an “indication” of what is happening in the environment. Since the environment is very complex, indicators provide a more practical and economical way to track the condition of the environment than if we attempted to record every possible variable. The reliability of an indicator can be tested scientifically to provide evidence that it is a useful measure of natural resource condition.
Rather than focusing on common indicators the Reporting Framework focuses on reporting on common outcomes or targets – i.e. the targets from the State NRM Plan. The use of common indicators across all regions is often not practical because different NRM regions do not need to (and can not be expected to) measure the condition of their resources in the same way. This is because different regions have different blends of natural resources, management priorities, community values and funding. It follows that these will attract different levels of management attention and will require monitoring of different indicators.
Also a natural resource in one location is likely to function differently from the same natural resource in another location. For example, a wetland in the South East may be constantly replenished with groundwater, whereas a wetland in Eyre Peninsula may be infrequently filled with saline surface water. These processes of water replenishment support very different wetland communities of plants and animals and ecological function. For these reasons different indicators would be used to assess the condition of each wetland.
The Reporting Framework and report cards do not in themselves evaluate management actions.However, the Reporting Framework does outline a process to collect information relating to the condition of priority natural resources, threats to them and management of them, all of which may be used as inputs to help evaluate the effectiveness of management actions in improving the condition of natural resources.
Human development has substantially impacted the condition of many of our natural resources. Land managers, with support from Government agencies, Natural Resource Management Boards, industry bodies and conservation groups, are working to improve the condition of natural resources. The condition of these resources will not improve overnight. These report cards track trends in the condition of resources, because we are investing to slowly improve the condition of our resources. Trends are categorised as “unknown” if there is not enough information to reliably calculate a trend. Trends are categorised as “variable” if a single report card summarises the condition of several different resources, some that have trends “getting better” and some “getting worse”. Trends are classified as “getting better” if the condition of the resource has improved and “getting worse” if the resource has degraded. Trends are categorised as “not applicable” if the natural resource is not present or prominent in a particular NRM region (for example, the SA Arid Lands NRM region does not have reef or seagrass). Trends are classified as “stable” if the condition of the resource has not changed.