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The Atlas of Living Australia has both conservation information and sensitive species information. It’s important to understand the difference between them, and how they are handled at the ALA.
Many factors can be used to determine the conservation status of a species, such as: how many individuals are left, population trends over time, known threats, breeding success, etc. There are global systems for recognising conservation status: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is the most well-known. In Australia, at a federal level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) lists threatened species.
Conservation status can also be determined within states and territories (Table 1). The conservation status of a species is an indicator of the likelihood of the species remaining alive. The categories generated by international, federal, and state-based bodies are not just categories for categories sake, they are crucial for directing vital resources to the species that need it the most.
Sensitive species status
Sensitive species are those that are sensitive to disturbance and exploitation. A species does not need to appear on a conservation list to be considered a sensitive species, however, generally there is a lot of overlap. As with conservation status, state and territory governments maintain sensitive species lists.
Conservation lists at the ALA
The lists generated by our state, territory, and federal government are gathered and processed by the ALA. This enables conservation information to appear on a species page. You can find our conservation status related lists using the link. Table 1 outlines where the ALA gets conservation information and the responsible governing authority. Our lists are updated frequently to reflect the source lists, however, because this information is ever-changing, we will sometimes have an older version of the list.
Displaying conservation information
We display conservation information on our species pages with an icon for each state that the species is listed on. Let’s use Lathamus discolor (Swift Parrot) as an example, critically endangered in Australia and the ACT, and Endangered in NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Lathamus discolor (swift parrot) conservation status
Sensitive Species lists at the ALA
You can find the ALA's sensitive species lists using the link. Table 1 outlines where the sensitive information comes from and the responsible governing authority. For some states and territories, the conservation and sensitive species lists are the same.
The ALA runs data sensitivity checks as part of the data upload process. Depending on the nature of the sensitivity, records are:
- Withheld (e.g. Wollemi Pine)
- Geographic coordinates and sightings are generalised to 10km
- Geographic coordinates and sightings are generalised to 1km
Displaying sensitive species information
When looking at an occurrence record of a sensitive species, you will be informed that the record has been modified and information is being withheld. Figure 2 shows the information displayed for a sensitive species. This text will vary depending on the level of sensitivity as outlined above.
Figure 2. Sensitive species information withheld for Prasophyllum petilum (Tarengo Leek Orchid).
Table 1. Conservation and sensitive species list source data for Australian states and territories.
|State||Links to Source||Authority||List Type|
|EPBC (Aus)||SPRAT Database list download||Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999||Conservation|
|ACT||Data||Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate - Environment||Sensitive|
|ACT||Formal list on the ACT legislation register|
|Nature Conservation Act 2014,s91||Conservation|
|NSW||BioNet Species Names web service||Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 or the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No. 38||Conservation|
|NSW||BioNet Species Names web service|| ||Sensitive|
|Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1976||Conservation|
|QLD||List metadata and data||Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992||Conservation|
|QLD||List metadata and data|| ||Sensitive|
|SA||Fauna metadata and BDBSA taxonomy|
Flora metadata and BDBSA taxonomy
|Census of South Australian vertebrates|
Census of South Australian Vascular Plants
|SA||Metadata Data|| ||Sensitive|
|TAS||List metadata and data||Threatened Species Protection Act 1995||Conservation|
|VIC||List data||Victorian Dept Land, Environment, Water and Planning||Sensitive|
|WA||Fauna metadata and data|
Flora metadata and data
|Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016||Conservation|
How do I make the location of my sighting non-specific?
The ALA will process any sensitive records according to the rules set by the state and territory governments. If you have records you believe are sensitive but do not appear on the sensitive species lists for the relevant state or territory you can generalise them prior to submission by:
- By reducing the accuracy of location information (coordinates and locality description)
- Change the precision of the taxonomic information (providing species instead of subspecies or genus instead of species).
If the records are generalised prior to submission, it is important to indicate this in the records using the “data generalisations” field so that users of the data know that more accurate information is available if needed.
Which species in a specific location are on conservation lists?
The best way to access this information is by searching by location. Once you have a list of species in a certain area you can then refine your search using filters, one of the filters available is conservation status.