The Commonwealth and most state and territory governments have signed up to an intergovernmental agreement to deliver a Common Assessment Method (CAM) for assessing the conservation status of all Australian threatened species. (Under the CAM, “species” is a general term that includes species, subspecies, varieties, and hybrids).
The CAM aims to establish a consistent approach to assessing and listing threatened species. Assessments are based on International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria and conform to standards developed by a national Working Group representing all jurisdictions.
Under the CAM, each state or territory will have a single list of threatened species. In Victoria, this will consolidate three lists:
- Species listed as threatened under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC list)
- Species listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG list)
- Species included in 3 Victorian Advisory Lists:
- Advisory List of Threatened Invertebrate Fauna in Victoria – 2009
- Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna – 2013
- Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants in Victoria – 2014 (Although note that species that were included on the Advisory Lists with categories of Near Threatened, Data Deficient or Poorly Known were only re-assessed if they were also FFG-listed).
Any species that are assessed under the CAM as Extinct, Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable (EX, CR, EN, VU) at the state level, and any Victorian species listed under the EPBC Act, will be eligible for consideration as the new FFG Threatened List in accordance with the relevant provisions of the FFG Act.
Public consultation on draft assessments has now closed
A complete list of assessed species is available to download.
Changes to the FFG Threatened List
The Threatened List will have two parts - a national section, consisting of EPBC Act listed species, and a state section, consisting of species that are considered to be threatened in Victoria but not at the national level. A species can only be in one of them. Any species that has an existing EPBC status will retain that status in the new Threatened List.
Victorian assessments for EPBC-listed species can be used to contribute to national re-assessments for species whose national listing is not currently in accordance with the CAM.
Note that this “bulk” assessment process is a once-off under the provisions of the amended FFG Act. Species that were not included may still be nominated for FFG listing on a species-by-species basis.
Over 2000 assessments have been delivered, by a range of experts from within and outside DELWP. All assessors used a commercial software program, RAMAS Red List Pro, to calculate the conservation status based on the relevant IUCN criteria, and to store all the data collected. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Scientific Advisory Committee has reviewed many of the assessments and is continuing to do so.
- All species, subspecies and varieties on DELWP’s Advisory Lists that are Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Regionally extinct, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Rare; and
- species listed as threatened under the FFG Act 1988. (Many of these are also included on the Advisory Lists.)
These totalled 2174 species
- Note: for this project, species, subspecies, and varieties are grouped together as 'taxa' in the assessment documentation. For the purposes of this background information, they will be described just as 'species'.
- Species who have unconfirmed taxonomy or have been more recently regarded as not occurring in Victoria;
- Species that have already been assessed under the CAM at the national level (i.e. are “CAM-compliant”) have not been assessed, but are included in the final results with their EPBC status.
In total, 2057 species are being assessed
- 222 vertebrates (41 mammals, 93 birds, 40 reptiles, 14 amphibians, 34 fish)
- 131 invertebrates (marine, freshwater, terrestrial)
- 1704 plants (including mosses, lichens and fungi).
All species are being assessed at the Victorian scale, regardless of their status under the EPBC Act. Species that have an existing EPBC Act threatened status, but are not CAM-compliant (i.e. assessed prior to 2014), have been re-assessed so that in the future, when these “legacy” species are re-assessed at a national scale, Victorian data will be readily available.
Several well-known and high-profile species are not included in this assessment process, because they are already 'AM-compliant or are in the process of being assessed under the EPBC Act.
Examples of these are the Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider, Mountain Pygmy Possum, Long-footed Potoroo, Helmeted Honeyeater, Regent Honeyeater, Hooded Plover, Plains-wanderer, Baw Baw Frog, Eltham Copper Butterfly and Fringed Spider-orchid. All of these will be included on the new Threatened List using their EPBC conservation status.
Overall, 82 separate individuals contributed to assessments.
- DELWP staff, including those from the Arthur Rylah Institute of Environmental Research and regionally based staff from Forest, Fire and Regions Group
- Staff of Museums Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
- Academics and researchers.
- Private contractors and environmental consultants.
- Individual experts.
The list of experts was endorsed by the SAC.
The Victorian bushfires covered large areas of East Gippsland and the north-east and affected a wide range of threatened species. Some species, such as rainforest species, are completely or partially restricted to these areas.
Limited access to fire areas means it will take some time to determine how these species have been affected and if their status has changed. For many species, we can only note that the fires may have had an impact, and that monitoring may indicate a need for a re-assessment in the future. For others, fire area and intensity mapping may show that important habitat has been unaffected, or only slightly affected.
For the plant and animals where the mapping suggests that significant areas of habitat had been affected, we needed to determine, in the absence of clear monitoring data, the likelihood that the species in turn has been affected. For animals, this is based on factors such as their:
- mobility i.e. ability to escape or hide;
- susceptibility to predation by foxes and cats;
- reliance on specific habitat requirements such as food, nesting areas and refuges etc.
For plants, this is based on:
- their ability to tolerate and/or recover from burning;
- fire intensity i.e. some plants may tolerate low-intensity fire but are killed by high-intensity ones;
- their life history e.g. whether they have soil seed banks, are geophytes with underground tubers, are epiphytes; can resprout from rhizomes etc;
- their susceptibility to repeat fires;
- their susceptibility to exotic herbivores such as deer and feral horses, and
- their dependence on habitats that are highly susceptible to fires e.g. rainforests
Any species regarded as fire sensitive have been re-considered, and some may have been upgraded to a higher status (on the basis of an increased past or future decline) if the expert assessor believes that this is warranted.
The Single Operational List (SOL) is a term used in the CAM Memorandum of Understanding to describe the outcome of the CAM. The FFG Threatened List will be the SOL for Victoria. It will have two sections – a national section and a state section.
The national section will include all EPBC-listed plants, animals and fungi, and will record their conservation status according to the EPBC Act. The state section will include plants, animals and fungi that have been assessed under this project as being threatened in Victoria but have no national status, either a) because they have not been assessed at a national scale or b) because they have been assessed at a national scale and are not regarded as threatened.
While there are nationally threatened species that might meet the criteria for a higher category when assessed at the Victorian scale, they cannot also be included in the state section of the list. So for a species assessed as Critically Endangered within its Victorian range but is EPBC-listed as Vulnerable nationally, it will stay in the Vulnerable category in the SOL.
The draft assessments have shown that a significant number of taxa have been upgraded from a lower conservation status to a higher one, particularly among the plants. There are several reasons for this:
- This change is almost entirely explained by formerly Rare plants meeting the criteria for one of the threatened categories. The Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants did not previously have a Critically Endangered category, so many previously Endangered, Vulnerable or Rare species moved up into Critically Endangered.
- There is better information. The Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants was updated in 2014, but mostly for administrative reasons. Most of the Advisory List categories were based on 2005 data, so further monitoring has been undertaken and conditions may have changed in the intervening years.
- Consideration of climate effects was not really taken into account in the older Lists. Climate change-induced drying, warming and more frequent bushfires have become important factors.
- The bushfires of 2019 and 2020 had serious impacts on the habitat of a number of species, and on the species themselves. The full impacts are still to be assessed in the field for many species.
- Under the IUCN criteria, past and future declines are based on three generations, so for very long-lived species (e.g. large Eucalypts) declines can be taken into account back to pre-European settlement. These declines can place a species into a higher category than previously assessed
The draft assessments have shown that a few species have been downgraded from a higher conservation status. Some have been reduced to Data Deficient (DD) or Least Concern (LC), which means that if they were previously FFG-listed, they may be removed from the FFG list. There are several reasons for this.
- There is better information. Some species may be found to be numerous or widely distributed than previously thought.
- Some historic declines can’t be considered by the IUCN rules. Past and/or future decline are calculated on the basis of three generations or ten years, whichever is longer. Some species have a short generation time (e.g. annual plants, some amphibians, small birds and mammals). For these, we can only consider declines of up to ten years into the past or future. So even if the species suffered a massive decline fifty years ago, we can’t take that into account. If it still has relatively broad distribution (even though numbers may be a great deal fewer) and a population size that exceeds the IUCN thresholds, it is assessed as LC.
- Some species (almost entirely invertebrates) were previously regarded as threatened because there were very few records. However, for some, that was a result of incidental observations, with no targeted surveys, and the small size and cryptic habit of the species. In cases where there is inadequate evidence to determine numbers, distribution or declines, they may be assessed as DD
There are likely to be only minor implications for regulation, investment programs and public land management. All the items that have been assessed were either already FFG-listed or known to be rare or threatened on the published Advisory Lists. In future there will be just the single FFG Threatened List; the three Advisory Lists will no longer exist.
- If a species is currently FFG-listed and receives a final assessment of DD or LC, or its taxonomy is invalid or it is not native to Victoria, it may be removed from the Threatened List.
- Vertebrate fauna species are already protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, but there are higher penalties for taking threatened wildlife i.e. fauna listed under the FFG Act.
- FFG-listed plants, and those declared protected by Governor-in-Council (GiC) Order are protected on public land. Major groups of plants (e.g. all orchids, almost all acacias, daisies and ferns) are protected by GiC Order, so it likely that only a few additional plants will become protected, and some may become unprotected.
- The Native Vegetation (NV) Removal Guidelines are incorporated into all planning schemes in Victoria and refer to the Advisory Lists. The Guidelines already accommodate a successor to these lists and as such do not need to be updated to respond to the new Threatened List and to the removal of the Advisory Lists. The NV regulations can remove maps for species that are no longer threatened, and include maps for newly listed species, including taxa that are listed under the current FFG list but not under the Advisory List. There will probably be a very small number of species that are removed.
- Processes such as forest management planning and strategic bushfire management planning have also tended to use the Advisory Lists in addition to the FFG Threatened List for information on taxa of conservation concern.
- Changes in the threat status listing may impact on offset requirements.
Page last updated: 25/11/20