GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
1.4 Assessment approach
For each of the assessments required under the Act and Regulations, a set of assessment criteria allow an ordered analysis of the available evidence (Figure 1.3). For example, the assessment of biodiversity uses two assessment criteria — habitats to support species and populations of species or groups of species. Within each assessment criterion there are multiple assessment components. In some cases, adjustments have been made to assessment components since 2009. For example, in Chapter 3 the ecological process of recruitment has been added to the assessment, recognising the important role it plays in the maintenance and recovery of ecosystems. In Chapter 5 ‘Ports and shipping’ has been separated into two components, recognising the differences between the two uses, their management and impacts. These changes provide greater clarity and allow better assessment of the condition of values and benefits and impacts of activities. To maintain the value of the Outlook Report as a time series, changes have been limited to instances where they significantly improve the validity or utility of the assessment. A list of key changes is provided in Appendix 2. The outcomes for each criterion are provided in an assessment summary at the end of each chapter, along with an overall summary of the assessment findings.
The required assessments are structured around assessment criteria.
1.4.1 Assessing heritage values
Unlike the first Outlook Report, heritage values, both tangible and intangible, are explicitly considered throughout this report. Assessments of the current state, factors influencing, resilience of, risks to, and long-term outlook of the Region’s heritage values are provided. The approaches used are based on those developed for the Australia State of the Environment 20114 and the 2013 draft Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment Report5 and will undoubtedly be further refined over time. Likewise, as the amount of heritage information grows, so will the depth of the assessment and the degree of confidence in its findings.
Figure 1.3 assessment approach
1.4.2 Assessment grades
The required assessments are based on the best available evidence. The allocation of grades is standardised through reference to grading statements presented with each assessment summary.
A series of statements standardise the allocation of grades for all components examined in an assessment, as well as the overall grade for the criterion. These statements are largely the same as for the Outlook Report 2009 — with a few amendments to improve clarity. The grade allocated is a ‘grade of best fit’, based on a qualitative assessment of the available evidence for the Region. It is not a comparison of the Region in relation to other tropical ecosystems around the world. The statements developed for assessing most heritage values are based on those used in the Australian state of the environment report4 and strategic assessment draft report5. Those for the assessment of world and national heritage values are adapted from a grading system developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to assess the outstanding universal value of natural world heritage sites.6 One aspect considered in grading the condition of heritage values is the degree to which those values have been recorded and identified. This recognises the important role an understanding of heritage plays in its protection.
The assessment of heritage values is new; assessment approaches will continue to evolve.
1.4.3 Trend and confidence