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Guidelines for Identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems (HEVAE): Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 3

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Developer

Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group (Australian Government and State and Territory representatives)

Latest documentation

2012

Designed for use in

Australia

Ongoing

Yes

Assessment purpose

Prioritisation, Processes and components, Values

Assessment criteria

Significance, Physical and chemical, Management and planning, Flora, Fauna

Method type

Desktop

Timescale

Medium-long term – The timescale for applying the HEVAE guidelines is dependent on the scope of the project and the availability of existing data.

Scale

Landscape/Catchment, Region, Site/habitat

Wetland system

Estuarine, Lacustrine, Palustrine, Riverine

Description and method logic

Method purpose

The HEVAE guidelines are designed to allow for the identification of high ecological value aquatic ecosystems based on biophysical attributes and criteria.

Summary

The guidelines for identifying high ecological value aquatic ecosystems (HEVAE) provide a methodology where existing datasets can be used to identify high ecological value aquatic ecosystems at various scales based on the themes of diversity, distinctiveness, vital habitat, naturalness, and representativeness. The HEVAE guidelines are part of the Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group’s Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit, which is intended for countrywide application in Australia.

Method logic

The guideline for identifying HEVAE aquatic ecosystems  recomends the use of the following criteria in a non-prescriptive way. The criteria:
  • Diversity: Diversity of species, habitats, and/or geomorphological features and processes
  • Distinctiveness: The aquatic ecosystem is, or features rare, threatened or unusual, and/or it features rare or significant species and/or geomorphological features
  • Vital habitat: The aquatic ecosystem provides vital habitat for unusually large numbers of native or migratory species and/or maintenance of populations of specific species critical life cycle stages and/or provides key or significant refugia for aquatic species that depend on that habitat, particularly during times of stress
  • Naturalness: The ecological character of the ecosystem is not adversely affected by modern anthropogenic activity
  • Representativeness: The aquatic ecosystem is an outstanding example of its class within a drainage division.

The HEVAE guidelines outline the following procedure for carrying out assessments:
1.Execute groundwork
2.Identify purpose
3.Map and classify aquatic ecosystems (provisions for this are included in the Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit)
4.Determine scale, regionalisation and spatial units
5.Assign attributes to chosen spatial unit
6.Apply the assessment process and identify units of high ecological value
7.Validate identified HEVAE.

HEVAE does not prescribe a particular scoring methodology; it however suggests a range of metric scoring techniques that are widely used in assessments elsewhere.

Criteria groupings of the method

The assessment criteria for the identification of HEVAE wetlands should use the themes of diversity, distinctiveness, vital habitat, naturalness, and representativeness.

Data required

HEVAE data is state and site-dependent. Among the data required may be: GIS datasets; aerial/remote imagery; index scores; species survey data; habitat survey data; assessment scores (jurisdictional programs); physicochemical data; biomonitoring data; and significant species listings.

Resources required

Expertise required

Identifying HEVAE requires different resources depending on which state the assessment is carried out in. The methodology will generally require expert knowledge as well as GIS, database and software management skills.

Materials required

Access to state jurisdictional programs, software packages for calculating HEVAE metric/scores.

Method outputs

Outputs

The HEVAE guidelines do not prescribe a particular output but will identify high ecological value aquatic ecosystems at a range of scales. The output scoring of metrics is suggested within the framework. Ten HEVAE scoring systems are suggested, these are: weighted or unweighted simple averaging (mean and median); precautionary principle, applying a weight to conservative metrics; priority principle, only considering above-average metrics; quartile/threshold and quartered/threshold; standardised Euclidian distance; Expert Rules/Fuzzy Logic; Jenks natural breaks; and percentiles.

Uses

  • Wetland management decision support
  • Protection prioritisation
  • Identifying species dependencies
  • Analysing migratory patterns.

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Distinctiveness of geomorphological features
      • Rare or unusual geomorphological features, processes of environmental conditions at a continental scale
    • Diversity of geomorphological features
      • Diversity of wetland types/classes within assessment area

    Management and planning

    • Naturalness
      • Conservation reserve
      • Degree of naturalness relative to remoteness
      • Disturbance indices
      • Habitat naturalness

    Significance

    • Distinctiveness
      • Habitat conservation status
      • Nationally listed communities
      • Nationally listed species
      • Species conservation status
    • Representativeness
      • Classification
      • Habitat under-representation
      • Integrity assessment
      • Regionalisation

    Flora

    • Distinctiveness
      • Endemic taxa habitat
      • Iconic species habitat
      • Rarity index
    • Diversity of species
      • Diversity of plant communities
      • Diversity of plant species

    Fauna

    • Distinctiveness
      • Endemic taxa habitat
      • Iconic species habitat
      • Rarity index
    • Diversity of species
      • Diversity of animal habitat
      • Diversity of animal species
    • Vital habitat
      • Intensive-breeding activities
      • Location for very large number of individuals
      • Refuge from stressful environmental processes (e.g. drought)
      • Supports proportion of dependent species
      • Used by migratory species
      • Wetting/drying regime dependence

Review

Recommended user

HEVAE requires access to variable levels of resources. It is appropriate for government agencies at various levels. It may be appropriate for Non-government organisations or natural resource/wetland managers.

The target audience for the document is Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, who set standards for identifying high values aquatic ecosystems for policies and planning purposes. Catchment management authorities and natural resource management agencies operating at a regional level may also use it for prioritisation purposes.

Strengths

  • Based on existing data, programs and classifications
  • Provides a comprehensive range of ecological significance criteria
  • Flexible application of criteria and metrics.

Limitations

  • Non-prescribed metrics
  • Non-prescribed scoring system
  • Requires a high level of expertise and resources to undertake.

Case studies

HEVAE: Lake Eyre Basin

Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group (2012), Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit. Case Study 1: Lake Eyre Basin.. [online], Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/8e53bdd6-d363-4731-aef1-9a672bc1d439/files/ae-toolkit-case-study-1-lake-eyre-basin.pdf.

HEVAE: Northern Australia

Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group (2012), Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit. Case Study 2: Northern Australia.. [online], Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/43485515-25fd-4915-b545-556266f94e8d/files/ae-toolkit-case-study-2-northern-australia.pdf.

HEVAE: Tasmania

Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group (2012), Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit. Case Study 3: Tasmania.. [online], Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/aquatic-ecosystems-toolkit-case-study-3-tasmania.

References

  1. National Framework and Guidance for Describing the Ecological Character of Australia’s Ramsar Wetlands. Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 3: Guidelines for Identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems (HEVAE) (2008). [online], Australian Government, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Canberra, ACT.. Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/resource/aquatic-ecosystems-toolkit-module-3-guidelines-identifying-high-ecological-value-aquatic.

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Guidelines for Identifying High Ecological Value Aquatic Ecosystems (HEVAE): Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 3, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/guidelines-for-identifying-high-ecological-value-aquatic-ecosystems-hevae/

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science