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A strategic plan for an Australian Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Network



Because of the urgent need for robust, long-term information on biodiversity loss and environmental change, we have proposed a Long-Term (>10 years) Environmental Monitoring (LTEM) Network for Australia. The LTEM Network would comprise 25 Nodes distributed throughout Australia, be focused on terrestrial, inland aquatic and coastal estuarine ecosystems, and be established to monitor long-term biodiversity loss and ecological change (patterns and trends). The LTEM Network would be question-problem-process-driven and not infrastructure-driven. Thus, the different Nodes in the LTEM Network would explicitly recognize different biota, different environmental problems, different environmental threats and different kinds of management interventions in different ecosystems. We provide a governance structure for the proposed LTEM Network and envisage that it would be characterized by being: (i) lean, yet powerful, agile and adaptive; (ii) both centralized (through a coordinating role by a Federal Government agency), yet decentralized in terms of where the Nodes are located and how they are operated and managed; and (iii) not overly bureaucratic. We also argue that it would be highly cost-effective; our estimated cost for the establishment of an LTEM Network is $28 million per year or less than 0.25% of the total annual governmental expenditure of $12 billion on environmental management in 2003/2004. The LTEM Network would be a critical part of Australia's environmental infrastructure and provide the Nation, for the first time, with a formal, coordinated, long-term Network to gauge status and change of biodiversity and environmental condition. We argue that this would allow the Nation to begin to address seriously many of the major data-related deficiencies that currently exist in the environment and biodiversity conservation sectors in Australia.