Australia's environment is unique. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries with an exceptional total number of species, and a high degree of endemic species found nowhere else. The marine area is one of the largest in the world and home to the world's most diverse mangrove and seagrass ecosystems and one of the largest areas of coral reef.
The environment has a range of ecological, economic and social values, many of which cannot be readily measured. While Australia's growing economy and its increasing use of energy and other resources have brought prosperity and wellbeing to many Australians, our economic activities and consumption patterns also have environmental consequences. The way we manage our natural resources and the waste products that we generate can impact on the many values we place upon the environment.
This section begins by presenting information on people's views and behaviour in relation to the environment. It notes a decline in concern for the environment during the last decade. Registration of environmental concerns and donations to environmental causes are explored. Data are presented on water sources and people's view of drinking water quality. The discussion of household waste management includes data on recycling and use of environmentally friendly products.
The section Australia's biodiversity presents data on the biological diversity of Australia's species and ecosystems. It covers legislation to protect threatened species and presents data on threatened species and communities and terrestrial protected areas. This is closely linked with the section Extent and clearing of native vegetation. The section Invasive species addresses the number of native species threatened by invasive pest animals and the current and potential distribution of weeds. An article Environmental impacts of Agriculture in Agriculture has information on land degradation and related issues, including salinity.
The section Coastal and marine environment presents information on the uniqueness of this part of Australia's environment and the threats posed by human activity. The section then focuses on two particular ecosystems: estuaries and coral reefs. Data are also presented on marine protected areas.
The final section, Atmosphere and climate change, presents trends in temperatures and other climatic conditions over the last century, followed by recently compiled data on greenhouse gas emissions. This section has close links with Energy, as some of the environmental issues are consequences of energy production and consumption. An article Climate change follows the section Geography and climate.
As 2003 is the International Year of Freshwater, this section is followed by an article Australia's rivers, addressing issues of inland water quality.