Frequently asked questions about the Conservation management Zones of Australia.
The 23 Conservation Management Zones of Australia are geographic areas, classified according to their ecological characteristics and threats. The zones align with the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia.
The Conservation Management Zones (CMZs) provide a way of understanding Australia’s natural environment that will assist in long-term conservation planning and help the Australian Government to better design, deliver and report on Natural Resource Management (NRM) investments, including improving alignment of national priorities with local actions.
The CMZs provide an organisational framework within which to:
- systematically design Australian Government NRM programs and prioritise investment
- monitor, evaluate and report on the impacts and effectiveness of Australian Government NRM investment;
- gather, synthesize and communicate on-ground knowledge and expertise about the environment (this includes information about regional NRM requirements, best practice management, emerging NRM issues and knowledge gaps);
- make national environmental and socio-economic data regionally meaningful, accessible and comprehensible; and
- assess the combined impacts of policy, program and regulatory mechanisms in achieving environmental outcomes
The Australian Government requires long-term conservation planning tools that assist in making sound, forward-looking decisions on Natural Resource Management (NRM). The Conservation Management Zones will help the Australian Government to prioritise and evaluate actions according to distributions of ecological and threat characteristics, whilst ensuring that transaction costs, such as design, delivery and communications costs associated with national NRM programs are kept within reasonable bounds.
How do the Conservation Management Zones help to address past concerns about the design and delivery of Natural Resource Management programs?
The project aims to overcome concerns voiced through the review of the former Caring for Our Country program, that stakeholders found it difficult to see how their local actions could fit within national priorities. Through consistently identifying the environmental and threat characteristics contained within each Conservation Management Zone, the Australian Government and Natural Resource Management (NRM) community will be able to collaboratively develop NRM priorities which are linked from the local to national scale.
How will the Conservation Management Zone framework help the Australian Government to evaluate the impacts of its Natural Resource Management investment?
The Conservation Management Zone (CMZ) framework will enable systematic identification of Natural Resource Management (NRM) priorities and associated indicators for monitoring. This is important foundational architecture for Australian Government NRM programs, and will increase the capacity to evaluate the impacts of NRM investments over the long term and across funding cycles.
In addition, the CMZs provide a framework within which the data about NRM projects can be shaped into a logical story about NRM investment. They also provide architecture for collection, dissemination and aggregation of information, whilst setting sensible geographic limits to aggregation relative to assets and threats identified within each zone.
No. The Conservation Management Zones (CMZs) will not affect any change to existing administrative boundaries or governance structures. The CMZs aim to support the Natural Resource Management and wider community to cooperatively manage environmental assets across borders, where they share common threats, ecological characteristics and stakeholders.
What is the point of a broad-scale regionalisation if most environmental management happens at a finer-scale?
The Conservation Management Zone (CMZ) framework does not constrain fine-scale environmental management. The framework is intended for broad priority and target-setting, but recognises that achieving outcomes relative to targets and priorities is wholly dependent on local activity.
The CMZ framework therefore seeks to support and facilitate local activity, whilst simultaneously ensuring the Australian Government is able to be fully accountable for Australian Government funds.
A finer-scale approach to priority setting would increase transaction costs for the Australian Government. There is also a risk that a finer-scaled priority -setting could unwittingly alienate or create more inequitable ‘in / out’ scenarios for delivery of Natural Resource Management (NRM) investment, negatively impacting on uptake of NRM activity on the ground.
The CMZ framework therefore seeks to support local action, whilst intelligently simplifying and supporting the transparency and ecological integrity of national NRM program design.
Development of Conservation Management Zones
The Conservation Management Zone boundaries were determined through analysis of a range of environmental modelling and data, as well as alignment with the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia. Please refer to the Methodology used to define Conservation Management Zones for more detail on this process.
Why isn’t the Department using the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) in this context?
The Australian Government recognises the value of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia and its wide acceptance and application within the Natural Resource Management (NRM) community in Australia. For this reason, IBRA regions are fully nested within the Conservation Management Zone (CMZ) framework. All Conservation Management Zones are aggregates of IBRA or IBRA subregions.
The transaction costs of delivering Australian Government NRM programs, such as program design exercises and public communication, tailored to the 85 mainland IBRA regions would be high. The project therefore builds on IBRA, whilst recognising that efficiencies and reduction in transaction costs can be realised for the design and delivery of Australian Government NRM programs by aggregating IBRA regions, as many IBRA regions share similar management requirements, threat profiles and communications requirements.The broader scale CMZs are also more practical for the communication of a suite of socio-economic and environmental information.
The Department was of the view that more recent modelling of biodiversity patterns, contemporary data and a more recent version of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia would influence some change in the boundaries identified by earlier work. However, there are broad consistencies between the Conservation Management Zones and existing large-scale regionalisations, such as the Agro-climatic zonation of Australia (Hutchison et al 2005) and the World Wildlife Fund Eco-Regions.
The Conservation Management Zone project would not have been possible without the strong conceptual foundations provided by the work of Henry Nix, Richard Thackway, Ian Cresswell, Michael Hutchinson, Sue McIntyre, Richard Hobbs, Janet Stein, Stephen Garnett, Janine Kinloch, and the World Wildlife Fund.
Conservation Management Zones in the most intensive land use regions of Australia are more finely delineated than those of lower land use intense regions. This reflects more complex NRM needs where human population densities are greater. Conversely, the drivers within the larger-scale, lower land use intense regions are more uniform and less complex. Although there is still considerable biological variation in the larger, less intensive land use zones, management requirements and opportunities are considered to be broadly similar within them (for example, within the Arid Shrublands and Desert zone).
In the future, it is possible that larger zones could be divided into smaller zones depending on the opportunities provided by Natural Resource Management programs and their funding base.
The Conservation Management Zone profiling process reveals some of the complexity and variability within each zone. It is recognised that the profiling is not comprehensive, but rather provides an introductory window into environmental and socio-economic characteristics within each zone.
Any Natural Resource Management conservation planning and prioritisation processes would take account of the characteristics contained within each zone to the depth required by specific program policy settings.
Climate change and water
Yes. It is likely that revisions of boundaries will be necessary to account for climate change. This is also the case for the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) boundaries. Modelling of potential biodiversity responses to climate change will assist the Department to make assessments of when and how boundaries should change. In the meantime, it is anticipated that the Conservation Management Zone (CMZ) boundaries may have longevity of at least a decade or more.
One of the advantages of relatively broad-scale boundaries is that it is assumed that notable shifts are more likely to occur within the CMZ boundaries at a finer scale, than between the CMZ boundaries in the short term.
The Conservation Management Zones (CMZs) do not align with Australia’s Drainage Divisions. In future, there may be an opportunity to provide improved information about hydrological systems within the CMZ profiles, including how different hydrological systems may be connected across CMZs through surface or groundwater networks. This is relevant as complementary, terrestrially-focussed management funded through Australian Government Natural Resource Management programs may impact on aquatic ecosystems. Aquatic ecosystem information in the CMZ profiles is currently limited to identification of Ramsar wetlands, and wetlands listed in A Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia.
The Conservation Management Zone profiles
Profiles have been created for each Conservation Management Zone containing a standard suite of nationally available ecological and socio-economic information. We hope that this information will enable Australians of all ages and backgrounds to engage with, understand and appreciate Australian landscapes, and support all Australians to manage our natural resources more effectively.
The profile information provides an indicative, high-level stock-take of the environmental and socio-economic characteristics of each zone and it is not intended to be comprehensive. However, the profiles aim to reflect some of the diversity and variability contained within each zone.
It should be noted that, at present, the profiles contain limited information on aquatic ecosystems, coastal assets and Indigenous land management practices. There is also a variable degree of detail for the vegetation management recommendations, with many gaps yet to be filled. We hope that, in future, consultation and comprehensive literature reviews will enable us to provide more complete information.
The environmental information in the profiles has been collected by individuals, research institutions, state and territory agencies and the Australian Government over many decades. This information is housed within national data sets managed by Australian Government agencies. Information collected and curated by the Australian Government, such as species records, vegetation mapping and land use information is rigorously vetted and cleaned before being incorporated within nationally accepted data classification systems and databases. Nevertheless, all of this data comes with caveats associated with their source databases and collections.
The socio-economic information is largely provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and has been collated for the Conservation Management Zone (CMZ) profiles by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
The majority of socio-economic information was compiled from the 2011 ABS Census. The Census data was chosen for use in the profiles as it is a comprehensive set of national statistics, with every Australian surveyed. More frequently collected statistics, such as monthly employment figures are based on a restricted sample of the population and modelled to create national, state or territory statistics. It was not possible, within the scope of the current CMZ profiles, to determine appropriate methodologies for modelling out data collected from smaller samples within the CMZ framework.
Consideration of the socio-economic characteristics of landscapes is essential for sound conservation planning. Although the statistics provided in the profiles are generalised to the Conservation Management Zone level, they nonetheless provide a good introduction to some of the social dimensions that may need to be considered when designing or delivering Natural Resource Management (NRM) initiatives.
Studies undertaken by organisations such as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) have previously identified influences of NRM uptake, such as age, education and language.
Major economic drivers within landscapes, such as production of agricultural commodities may impact on participation rates for NRM programs. For example, in areas where high value cropping is a major economic driver, incentives to encourage agricultural landholder participation in NRM programs may need to be tailored or targeted in a way to ensure participation in NRM. .
The recommendations were drawn from a range of sources, including:
- Recovery Plans for a range of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act (1999) Listed threatened ecological communities and species;
- EPBC Act Conservation Advice and Listing Advice;
- published literature (where available); and
- Natural Resource Management regional plans.
What is the Department doing to improve the comprehensiveness and quality of management recommendations listed in Conservation Management Zone profiles?
A systematic review of published and grey literature about natural resource management effectiveness is underway and will assist in identification of empirically proven management and knowledge gaps. Identification of knowledge gaps will enable monitoring funds to be more strategically deployed to evaluate the least known management practices. The project will also determine limits for the generalisation of empirical findings to assets within the Conservation Management Zone framework. In future, it is hoped that the Department will be able to provide a confidence rating for each management recommendation.
No. The recommendations are indicative, but can be used to guide action. Environmental management needs to be planned and adapted according to the site and seasonal context in which it may be applied.
It is hoped that ongoing feedback from the Natural Resource Management community will allow management innovations to be identified. The Conservation Management Zone framework provides a logical framework within which to collect and disseminate information about innovation.
At the most fundamental level, the profiles can be used to explore the environmental assets or threats present within each zone. For example, a potential NRM program participant might use the profiles in the following way:
- The profiles can be used to identify environmental assets or threats of interest within each CMZ – for example, a particular Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act Threatened Species or Threatened Ecological Community; a Major Vegetation Subgroup type; or a particular invasive species threat.
If the focus is an EPBC Act listed threatened species or community, where available, the appropriate national Recovery Plan may assist in formulating a project proposal. If not available, then often the EPBC Act Listing or Conservation Advice can provide information. If focussing on a particular invasive species threat, it may be possible to find more information on managing that threat through an associated national Threat Abatement Plan. Links to the relevant Listing Advice, Conservation Advice, Recovery Plans and Threat Abatement Plans can be found by searching for the species, community or threat of interest in the Species Profile and Threats Database. Otherwise, a web search about the particular environmental asset may reveal more information.
- It is also possible to cross-reference information about the habitat in which any particular asset or threat of interest is found, with the Management Recommendations found in the Appendix of each Conservation Management Zone profile. The Management Recommendations synthesize information from a range of sources and provide useful guidance for managing different vegetation types in particular. They are not comprehensive or definitive recommendations. In time, it is hoped that the Department will be able to fill knowledge gaps, provide confidence ratings relative to different recommendations and determine optimal suite of management activities.
1. Within the South Eastern Australia Mallee Woodlands zone, Malleefowl (listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act) can be found across approximately 77.14% of the total zone area and almost 30% of their total national distribution are found within the zone.
2. The relevant national Recovery Plan is found by searching for Malleefowl in the Species Profile and Threats Database (SPRAT).
3. Information about appropriate management actions for this species can be found within the Recovery Plan. In addition, specific information about managing the particular vegetation types that provide Malleefowl habitat are summarised within the South Eastern Australia Mallee Woodlands CMZ Major Vegetation Subgroup profiles in the Appendix. For example, Mallee with a Tussock Grass Understorey. Particular management types identified in these profiles may form the basis for development of an NRM project proposal. The recommendations are not definitive but provide initial guidance, and will assist potential NRM program participants to explore development of projects that integrate complimentary management types as appropriate.
Given the large number of National Reserve System (NRS) properties across Australia, it was not possible to list all properties in the current Conservation Management Zone profiles.
The majority of zones include either the twenty largest NRS properties or those that occupied more than 0.1% of the total zone area. In some zones, the list was increased to include one or more iconic NRS properties plus all those larger in size. For example, in the Eastern Australia Temperate and Subtropical Forests zone, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Royal National Parks are included, even though they are not among the largest NRS properties in this zone
The Department recognises that for some zones, this approach has resulted in a restricted list of properties relative to the number of NRS properties occurring. For example, in the large Arid Shrublands zone, many of the NRS properties in that zone are not listed.
In future, it is hoped that a live information system will improve the comprehensiveness of information provided in these profiles.Please note that the latest edition of the Collaborative Australian Protected Areas Database (CAPAD) is also now available on the Department’s website:
It is intended that the suite of information provided in the current profiles could ultimately be made available through an integrated, web-query information system in future. This is part of a broader consideration occurring across the Australian Government about information access. It is anticipated that the Conservation Management Zones (CMZs) may become one of many ‘cookie cuts’ of information available through such a system.
In the interim, the current CMZ profiles provide a valuable resource for the Natural Resource Management community and government.
It is acknowledged that some of the information contained within the profiles will date. However, the environmental and socio-economic information contained in the profiles will retain validity and importance. For example, the identified Matters of National Environmental Significance will retain that status (except in the rare circumstance that something is ‘delisted’). Likewise, the socio-economic data will remain relatively current until the data from the proposed 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census is collated, analysed and publicly released.
Information on new Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999), changes to mapped species distributions or major new properties within the National Reserve System can be found through the following links: