Monitoring for management of conservation and recreation in Australian protected areas
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Protected areas are key to conservation of biodiversity, and Australia is one of the world's megadiverse regions. Monitoring programs provide the information to assess the state of conservation resources, the severity of threats and the success of management responses. Here we compare the management priorities, monitoring priorities and actual monitoring practices of protected area management agencies in Australia, using four sets of data at continental scale and five at a more restricted regional scale. We track changes over a period of several years and focus at successively finer levels of detail. At both continental and regional scales, most management plans emphasise fire, invasive species and visitor management; and most monitoring programmes refer to visitor numbers and impacts as well as species and ecosystems. There is only a weak match, however, between reported management priorities and actual monitoring programmes; and the effectiveness of management responses is rarely monitored. The level of detail in visitor monitor programmes varies considerably: most parks count visitors, but few know what those visitors do. Threats from fire and invasive species receive more attention that those from recreation. At regional scale, the proportion of parks with defined monitoring programmes and priorities increased significantly from 2003/2004 to 2006/2007. Whilst only a proportion of protected areas monitor endangered species populations, for those that do this is the parameter reported in most detail, with many parks reporting single records of single individuals. Some parks also maintain anecdotal records of rare species outside routine monitoring programs.
Biodiversity and Conservation