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Vulnerability - Pressure - State - Impact - Risk and Response (VPSIRR) Assessment Tool

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A joint venture between researchers from the Coastal CRC, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, and Victorian Environmental Protection Agency

Latest documentation


Designed for use in

New South Wales, Australia
Queensland, Australia
Victoria, Australia



Assessment purpose

Condition, Management effectiveness, Prioritisation, Processes and components, Values/Services

Assessment criteria

Physical and chemical, Ecosystem/habitat

Method type

Desktop, expert panel, consultation


Medium-long term – The timescale largely depends on data availability, and size of estuary assessed.


Landscape/Catchment, Region

Wetland system


Description and method logic

Method purpose

The Vulnerability - Pressure - State - Impact - Risk and Response (VPSIRR) assessment tool is an integrated indicator framework designed to address the health of estuarine and coastal environments, for a range of stakeholders including government agencies and regional natural resource management (NRM) groups (Rockloff et al. 2006).


The VPSIRR assessment tool was developed for the specific purpose of assisting stakeholders and decision-makers to assess the condition of coastal waterways. The VPSIRR software enables users to select appropriate indicators for their system and to assess the risk of their system to those particular pressures, and enables prioritisation of management responses. It produces numerical scores (1-5) for indicators of vulnerability, pressure and condition, to inform the risk and response (Rissik et al. 2005).

Method logic

The VPSIRR approach is an adaptation from the Pressure-State-Response (PSR) and its other derivatives such as  Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) (Rockloff et al. 2006 and references contained within). It is an issues- and values-driven approach, in that the issues and values of stakeholders and community can be defined and used to determine stressors (Rissik et al. 2005).

Stressors are defined as the variables which lead to the issues of concern to the community.  Stressors in turn can be used to identify pressures which are the variables that can be measured to assess the level of the stressor.  The extent that a pressure can affect the waterbody being considered can be determined by the vulnerability of that particular system to the pressure.  Ultimately the pressure (modified by the vulnerability) results in the waterbody having a particular condition (Rissik et al. 2005). 

There are a variety of indicators of pressure, vulnerability and condition and these can be quantified. Pressure and vulnerability can be used to determine risk and risk is generally what ultimately defines condition, and management responses can then be prioritised according to the level of risk associated with each attribute (Rissik et al. 2005).

A key feature of this framework is that the causal links between indicators of pressure, state and impact are clearly identified, typically through conceptual models. This allows for only indicators relevant to the local situation to be assessed (Rissik et al 2005).

Criteria groupings of the method

Almost any parameter can be accommodated by the VSPIRR framework and process, and it can accommodate quantitative and qualitative data. Condition (state), pressure (stressor) and vulnerability criteria are Included:
  • Aquatic sediments.
  • Bacteria/pathogens.
  • Biota removal/disturbance.
  • Conductivity.
  • Connectivity.
  • Habitat removal.
  • Hydrology.
  • Nutrients.
  • Organic matter.
  • Pests.
  • pH.
  • Rubbish.
  • Toxicants.

Data required

  • Condition data.
  • Pressure data.
  • Vulnerability data.
  • Conceptual models.
  • Expert and stakeholder information.

Resources required

Expertise required

High level expert knowledge, expert panels, estuarine flora, fauna and ecology, spatial and non-spatial data, and the VSPIRR software.

Materials required

A database platform for data storage, manipulation and values assessment, a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for result presentation and interpretation, and VPSIRR software.

Method outputs


The VPSIRR tool produces numerical scores (1-5) for indicators of vulnerability, pressure and condition, to inform the risk and response.


  • Estuarine management.
  • Decision support.
  • Management prioritisation.
  • Risk assessment.
  • Vulnerability assessment.
  • Condition assessment.

Criteria by category

    Physical and chemical

    • Aquatic sediments
    • Bacteria/pathogens
    • Conductivity
    • Hydrology
    • Nutrients
    • Organic matter
    • Rubbish
    • Toxicants
    • PH


    • Biota removal/disturbance
    • Connectivity
    • Habitat removal
    • Pests


Recommended user

The VPSIRR tool can be used by state and local government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), regional natural resource management (NRM) groups, landcare groups and catchment managers.


  • Easy to interpret.
  • Adaptable.
  • Good logic with causal links.
  • Information rich product.


  • Dated software (2005).

Case studies



  1. Scheltinga, DM & Moss, A (2007), A framework for assessing the health of coastal waters: a trial of the national set of estuarine, coastal and marine indicators in Queensland. June 2007 Final report (condensed version). [online], Environmental Protection Agency Queensland, prepared for the National Land & Water Resources Audit, Canberra. Available at:
  2. Rissik, D, Cox, M, Moss, A, Rose, D, Scheltinga, D, Newham, LTH, Andrews, A & Baker-Finch, SC (December 2005), 'VPSIRR (Vulnerability - Pressure - State - Impact - Risk And Response): An Approach To Determine The Condition Of Estuaries And To Assess Where Management Responses Are Required', Modsim 2005 international congress on modelling and simulation. [online], pp. 2401-2401-2406, Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, eds. A Zerger & R M Argent. Available at:
  3. Rockloff, S, Helbers, D, Lockie, S, Moss, A, Scheltinga, D & Cox, M (2006), Integrated indicator framework for monitoring and reporting on biophysical health and social wellbeing in the coastal zone. [online], vol. Technical Report 82, CRC for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management, Indooroopilly. Available at:

Last updated: 10 September 2020

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2020) Vulnerability - Pressure - State - Impact - Risk and Response (VPSIRR) Assessment Tool, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation