What is ANHAT?
A heritage assessment tool
The Australian Natural Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT) is a map-supported database developed by the Department's Heritage Division. It helps identify and prioritise areas for their natural heritage significance, focusing on biodiversity. Significance is determined based on rigorous comparisons of specific natural values, and ANHAT is an important tool to aid an evolutionary understanding of Australia's biodiversity.
To add a place to the National Heritage List it must be shown to have "outstanding heritage value to the nation". This requires a assessment of significance against other places in Australia with similar values.
Gould's Goanna (Varanus gouldi) Darling River.
Photo: C. Slatyer
This in turn may require comparative information for the whole continent. As one of the sources of information used for natural heritage assessment, ANHAT enables quick analysis and comparison of recorded biodiversity values across Australia to meet statutory timeframes, and provides scientifically robust and repeatable results.
A biodiversity information tool
ANHAT uses the most complete, integrated dataset in Australia for locations of native species. ANHAT holds, manages and analyses data on the location of over 30,000 species to help identify places which best represent what is unique about our biodiversity.
By analysing the distributions of numerous species together, ANHAT is able to give a coherent picture of the patterns in Australia's biodiversity, its biogeography.
The tool helps us to answer questions such as:
- Where is the greatest diversity in Australia's flora and fauna to be found?
- Where are the important centres of endemism which generate or retain so much of our evolutionary biological heritage?
Untangling the tree of life - valid species names based on taxonomic authorities
All species information used in ANHAT is checked to ensure it refers to a valid species by its currently accepted name. This is because species are often known by more than one name, and names change over time as knowledge improves. Species occurrence data often includes exotic species, spelling errors and other anomalies. Without a sophisticated system to manage alternative names, the information presented on Australia's biodiversity has the potential to be misleading.
To manage this ANHAT includes a taxonomic hierarchy - the 'tree of life' - to resolve the available species information to a clean and consistent set of locations assigned to the correct taxonomic group.
What data are included in ANHAT?
Caper White Butterfly (Belenois java) near Nyngan.
Photo: C. Slatyer
ANHAT compiles over 33 million records on locations where species were observed or collected in Australia. These records come from:
- Australian Museum
- Australian National Herbarium
- CSIRO Australian National Insect Collection
- CSIRO Australian Wildlife Collection
- Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
- Museum Victoria
- Northern Territory Herbarium
- Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Launceston
- Queensland Herbarium
- Queensland Museum
- Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
- Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
- South Australian Museum
- State Herbarium of South Australia
- Tasmanian Herbarium
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
- Western Australian Herbarium
- Western Australian Museum
- Birds Australia
- Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Eremea Ebird
- Commonwealth Department of Defence
- Commonwealth Department of the Environment
- NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Bionet Atlas of NSW Wildlife
- NSW Department of Primary Industry,NSW Forest Science
- Northern Territory Department of Land Resource Management
- Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, WildNet
- South Australian Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Biological Survey of South Australia
- Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Natural Values Atlas
- Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment
- Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, NatureMap
- Mr Russell Sheil (Rotifers of Australia)
- Mr David Crosby (Lepidoptera of Victoria)
ANHAT does not cover all groups of species - yet
Careful taxonomic checking occurs before species are included in ANHAT. As this is a rigorous process that takes time, not all species are covered in ANHAT. However ANHAT does covers a broad range of biodiversity including:
|i.e. mammals, birds, frogs and fish||> 7,000|
|248 families of vascular plants|
|comprising the majority of Australia's named plant species now increased to||> 22,000|
|A range of invertebrate groups including:|
|293 families of insects||> 11,000|
|all land snails||> 2,200|
|selected spider families||> 1,400|
|selected crustacean families||> 6,000|
|selected echinoderm families||> 1,200|
|rotifers – aquatic wheel animals||> 700|
ANHAT information online
These summaries highlight important aspects of biodiversity within Natural Resource Management (NRM) areas around the country.
Recent articles provide a good guide to the methodology used in ANHAT:
- An assessment of endemism and species richness patterns in the Australian Anura
- Between a rock and a dry place: land snails in arid Australia
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