4609.0.55.002 - Land Account: Victoria, Experimental Estimates, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/12/2012  First Issue
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The addition “land cover change” tables (4.1 - 6.4) are a step from the land accounting of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework (SEEA Central Framework) towards the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounts. The SEEA Central Framework describes accounts for land cover and land use in monetary and physical terms. That is the land has both an area, as measured in hectares, as well as a price, as measured in dollars per hectare.

The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounts provides guidance on accounting for ecosystem condition. In this “ecosystem condition reflects the overall quality of an ecosystem asset, in terms of it characteristics (footnote 1). Characteristics include the living (e.g. flora and fauna) and non-living (e.g. soil, water) components of ecosystems and their interactions as well as other things related to the location of ecosystems like climate and topography. Condition can be measured in two types of ways. The first is by assessing the level of ecosystem service flows, and the second by assessing the physical characteristics of the components of ecosystems.

For the measurement of condition using physical characteristics, examples are soil and biodiversity. Soil condition can be measured according to its type, depth, extent and levels of different types of soil degradation (e.g. acidification, salinity and sodicity). The condition of biodiversity can be measured by the extent and quality (structure, canopy cover, time since disturbance, etc) of ecosystems or the number, distribution and abundance of species occurring within ecosystems. Such data is typically resource intensive to collect.

While accounting for ecosystem condition is still in the early stages of development in Australia, a range of activity has occurred or is occurring. For example:

  • SEWPaC ecosystem services key concepts and applications(footnote 2)
  • The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries discussion paper on ecosystem services(footnote 3)
  • The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists is conducting trials in the Natural Resource Management areas of Australia using measurement of the physical characteristics of ecosystems (e.g. biodiversity, soil, carbon and water)(footnote 4)
  • Ecosystem Services Framework of the South East Queensland Catchment Management Authority(footnote 5)
  • Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment have produced a set of experimental ecosystem acounts, including an estimate of condition using the metric “habitat hectares”(footnote 6)

The starting point for accounting for ecosystems at the ABS has been determining the extent of different land cover types, which are a proxy for ecosystems, can be measured using remote sensing techniques and hence are amendable to large scale estimation and regular production (i.e. annual). The Victorian Land Account, Experimental Estimates, provides a series of tables showing land cover for the years 1750 and 2006, for each natural resource management region. As there is a correlation between native vegetation extent and number of species(footnote 7), the area of native vegetation could be used to predict the number of species in a particular region and hence provide an indication of the condition of biodiversity that region.

Different spatial boundaries may be used to present information on native vegetation, and the most appropriate boundary will depend on the type of analysis being undertaken. The tables presented here (Tables 4.1 - 6.4) show native vegetation according to Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions, Statistical Areas (SA4) and Interim Bioregional Assessment regions (IBRA). NRM regions are useful because they represent the boundaries of the Catchment Management Authorities which are responsible for land management. SA4 are useful because these are the boundaries that link to the social and economic data of the ABS, while IBRA regions are defined by physical characteristics. One of the challenges when using information based on different spatial boundaries are that because of differences in coverage, and in particular where the boundary are drawn with respect to the shoreline, there are slight differences in the area shown for Victoria when the native vegetation data are intersected with other data layers.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of native vegetation remaining in 2006 compared to 1750 for each of the NRM regions of Victoria.
Fig 1 Percentage of 1750 native vegetation remaining in 2006 by NRM region
Graph: Percentage of 1750 native vegetation remaining in 2006 by NRM region

1 Para 2.34, SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting. <back
2 http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/pubs/ecosystem-services.pdf <back
3 http://www.daff.gov.au/natural-resources/ecosystem-services/ecosystem-services-report <back
4 Accounting for Nature (2008) and Trials of Environmental Asset Condition (2001) http://www.wentworthgroup.org/ <back
5 http://www.ecosystemservicesseq.com.au/ <back
6 Assessing the quality of native vegetation: The ‘habitat hectares’ approach.http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farming-management/business-management/ems-in-victorian-agriculture/environmental-monitoring-tools/the-habitat-hectares-approach <back
7 Brooks, T.M, Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G, da Fonseca, G.A.B., Rylans, A.B., Konstant, W.R., Flick, P., Pilgrim, J., Oldfield, S., Magin, G., Hilton-Taylor, C. (2002). Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conservation Biology 16(4): 909-923 <back