The national and regional planning framework for the systematic development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative ‘CAR’ National Reserve System is provided by the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA). IBRA was developed in 1993-94 and is endorsed by all levels of government as a key tool for identifying land for conservation under Australia's Strategy for the National Reserve System 2009-2030. The nationally agreed regionalisation was published in Thackway and Cresswell 1995, An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia: a framework for establishing the national system of reserves.
IBRA is updated as improved spatial mapping and information on vegetation communities and ecosystems becomes available from state and territory agencies. For example, in 2000 a review was undertaken to resolve boundary and data issues, which led to the development of IBRA version 5.1. Further information on this review can be found at: Revision of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) and the Development of Version 5.1. - Summary Report.
The latest version, IBRA7, classifies Australia's landscapes into 89 large geographically distinct bioregions based on common climate, geology, landform, native vegetation and species information. For example, the Australian Alps, the Nullabor Plain and the Wet Tropics are distinct bioregions. The 89 bioregions are further refined to form 419 subregions which are more localised and homogenous geomorphological units in each bioregion. The bioregions and subregions are defined in the IBRA7 bioregional map.
Under the Convention of Biological Diversity Australia has worked towards a target of 17 per cent of our continent to be protected as part of the National Reserve System. In building the National Reserve System, priority is given to under-represented bioregions that have less than 10 per cent of their remaining area protected in reserves.
Other priorities include:
- key habitats for nationally listed threatened species or migratory species and/or Ramsar sites or wetlands of national importance
- areas that contribute to whole-of-landscape conservation outcomes, such as places that offer refuge and or contribute to connectivity and the adaptation of biodiversity to changing climate.
Protection levels of bioregions
All 89 Australian bioregions have some representation in the National Reserve System, with 62 bioregions having more than 10 per cent protected and 27 bioregions currently at less than 10 per cent. Some bioregions already have much of their total area protected, while other bioregions, such as those with large tracts of cleared land, have very little area protected.
The bioregions and subregions are the reporting unit for assessing the status of native ecosystems and their level of protection in the National Reserve System. In this way, IBRA is used as a dynamic tool for monitoring progress towards building a comprehensive, adequate and representative 'CAR' reserve system. Such information assists governments to decide how to best prioritise funding to meet national protection targets. IBRA is also used in the monitoring and evaluation of the Australian Government's natural resource management initiatives.
Updated IBRA7 datasets
The current version of IBRA7 is an update of IBRA 6.1. IBRA7 defines 89 bioregions and 419 subregions compared with the 85 bioregions and 403 subregions described in IBRA6.1. The naming and coding of IBRA bioregions and subregions has also been reviewed and updated to a more consistent standard and format.
IBRA7 includes four new oceanic bioregions: the Indian Tropical Islands Bioregion, the Pacific Subtropical Islands Bioregion, the Subantarctic Islands Bioregion and the Coral Sea Bioregion. These bioregions account for Australia's island territories including Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean, Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean and the Coral Sea Islands Territory. IBRA7 also includes seven new subregions in the oceanic bioregions and six new subregions in South Australia.
The coast and near shore island boundaries have been adopted from the Geoscience Australia 1:100,000 coast and islands data. This has created consistent mapping of the coast and islands around Australia.
IBRA7 includes realigned boundaries that more accurately map bioregions and subregions, particularly those that cross state borders. IBRA7 data can be interrogated without state boundaries if required. Many boundary matching and coding inconsistencies for the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania have been eliminated. The sub-regional and associated bioregional boundaries in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have been more accurately refined to reflect improved spatial information in these regions.
Apart from these revisions, all other data remains unchanged.
IBRA datasets including previous versions of IBRA are available through the Find Environmental Data (FED) website. To search for IBRA datasets on the FED website, simply enter the term "IBRA" as the search title and click search. Links to the necessary datasets will then be displayed.
Monitoring growth: the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database
Assessing the level of protection assists governments to decide how to best prioritise funding to meet national protection targets. This assessment and monitoring of Australia's bioregions is supported by the Commonwealth, state and territory agencies who regularly provide statistics on the protected areas within their jurisdictions. The statistics are compiled in a database - the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database commonly known as CAPAD.
Abbreviations have been used to reduce data size and to improve formatting for viewing on web pages. Full descriptions of the abbreviations are available below: