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Integrated Ecosystem Condition Assessment: Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 5

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Developer

The IECA Technical Steering Committee, under the multi-jurisdictional Wetlands and Aquatic Ecosystems Sub Committee (Australian Government and State and Territory representatives)

Latest documentation

2017

Designed for use in

Australia

Ongoing

Yes

Assessment purpose

Condition, Management effectiveness, Values

Assessment criteria

Socio-cultural, Physical and chemical, Ecosystem/habitat, Flora, Fauna, Economic

Method type

Field, desktop, field truthing, expert panel

Timescale

Medium-long term – The timescale 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 IECA Framework provides users with a process on how to undertake an integrated ecosystem condition assessment and the key steps and considerations that need to be made.

It can be used to:
  • Assess and report on status and trends in condition and threats, relating to predetermined baseline or reference point for priority ecological values of aquatic ecosystems (condition assessment, surveillance monitoring)
  • Assess and report on effectiveness of management activities on condition and threats affecting aquatic ecosystems (intervention monitoring).

Summary

For condition assessments or surveillance monitoring programs the IECA Framework provides a consistent logic and approach able to be adapted to many situations, particularly in cross boundary or jurisdictional assessments/programs.

Method logic

The IECA Framework is comprised of an eight step process, preceded by a planning phase, which establishes the context and current understanding regarding the assessment unit.
Part A: Context and current understanding:

Framing the question (planning)
Step 1: Clarify objectives
Step 2: Identify triggers
Step 3: Targets and thresholds
Step 4: Stakeholder engagement
Step 5: Establish the spatial boundaries of the assessment unit

Groundwork (planning)
Step 1: Assessing expertise
Step 2 Collating existing information
Step 3: Define scale of assessment
Step 4: Identify existing conceptual models
Step 5: Identify externalities that are likely to affect the assessment

Workflow
Step 1: Identify and prioritise values
Step 2: Identify and prioritise threats
Step 3: Develop key evaluation questions
Step 4: Identify and prioritise indicators
Step 5: Design assessment and implementation
Step 6: Analyse and aggregate
Step 7: Harmonise and integrate
Step 8: Develop report card

Criteria groupings of the method

The IECA Framework guides the selection of indicators (with associated targets/reference points) for assessing the condition of high priority values and magnitude of threats (pressure, stressor, response) for aquatic ecosystems. Criteria used should enable assessment against management objectives (track progress relating to objectives and communicate trends), Key Environmental Questions (KEQs), and the magnitude of pressures and stressors acting on the assessment unit and priority values. Four types of indicators have been defined for the IECA Framework:
  • Condition indicators, which seek to enable an assessment of system condition against management objectives (equates to State Change indicators in the DPSIR framework)
  • Pressure indicators, which assess the magnitude of pressures within and acting on the assessment unit and priority values
  • Stressor indicators, which assess the magnitude of stressor acting on the assessment unit and priority values
  • Response indicators, which assess either the impact of pressures and stressors or the effect of management modifiers on the assessment unit and priority values.

The aim is to identify priority indicators to assess condition (status and trend) of, and threats to, the ecological values and effectiveness of management interventions.

Inputs to determine indicators include
  • KEQs and conceptual model
  • List potential indicators
  • Examples of prior data collected

Data required

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

Any methodologies associated with this framework will require expert knowledge as well as GIS, database and software management skills. Experience and/or education in wetland classification, stressors, assessment, ecological understanding and how they relate to ecosystem services.

Materials required

The equipment needed will vary depending on the purpose of the assessment examples include:
GIS and other software as needed for analysis and communication
  • relevant data
  • access to experts
  • ground truthing equipment

Method outputs

Outputs

  • Report detailing the assumptions and values being assessed
  • A conceptual model showing the linkages between values threats and indicators
  • Individual scores for Level 1 and Level 2 of integration for the assessment unit that are harmonised to a 0 to 1 grade
  • Separate outputs for condition and threats to ecological values for each scale of assessment
  • Caveats and assumptions made relating to the development of the report card

Uses

The IECA Framework uses six themes and can be used to:
  • Assess and report on status and trends in condition and threats, relating to predetermined baseline or reference point for priority ecological values of aquatic ecosystems (condition assessment, surveillance monitoring) in six themes 
  • Assess and report on effectiveness of management activities on condition and threats affecting aquatic ecosystems (intervention monitoring)

The IECA themes include:
Hydrology
      - Surface water
      - Ground water
Water quality
      -     Physical
      -     Chemical
Structural integrity
      -     Ecosystem extent
      -     Physical form
      -     Fringing zone
      -     Soils
Aquatic ecosystem connectivity
      -     Ecological connectivity
      -     Hydrological connectivity
Biodiversity
      -     Aquatic biota
      -     Ecosystem diversity
Services
      -     Regulating
      -     Provisioning
      -     Cultural

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Hydrology
      • Connectivity
      • Regime
      • Water Quality

    Economic

    • Ecosystem services
      • Provisioning
      • Regulating

    Socio-cultural

    • Cultural services

    Flora

    • Aquatic Biota

    Fauna

    • Aquatic biota

    Ecosystem/habitat

    • Structural integrity
      • Ecosystem extent
      • Fringing zone
      • Physical form
      • Soil quality
    • Connectivity
      • Ecological

Review

Recommended user

The target audience for the document is catchment management authorities and natural resource management agencies operating at a regional level, which are most responsible for designing and implementing monitoring and condition assessments. The Framework is also of use for Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, who set standards for monitoring, evaluation and reporting of aquatic ecosystems.

However the Framework is flexible and can be applied beyond condition reporting, for example as part of Environmental Impact Assessments and other planning processes.

Strengths

  • Based on existing jurisdictional programs and classifications
  • Flexible application of criteria and metrics

Limitations

(not documented)

Case studies

(not documented)


References

  1. Department of the Environment and Energy (2017), Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit. Module 5: Integrated Ecosystem Condition Assessment. [online], Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra. Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/water/publications/aquatic-ecosystems-toolkit-module-5-integrated-ecosystem-condition-assessment.

Last updated: 7 February 2019

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2019) Integrated Ecosystem Condition Assessment: Aquatic Ecosystems Toolkit Module 5, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/integrated-ecosystem-condition-assessment-aquatic-ecosystems-toolkit-module-5/

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science