Back on Track species prioritisation framework approach

Northern bettong  Photo: Queensland Government

Northern bettong

Many conservation agencies are now facing the challenge of deciding how best to use limited resources on an increasing number of listed threatened species. As a result, there are a number of different species prioritisation methods emerging around the world.

Back on Track species prioritisation framework (Back on Track) is based on Optimizing allocation of management resources for wildlife (Marsh et al. 2007). This method provides an opportunity for both scientists and decision makers (managers) to provide input, and can be applied across a range of taxonomic groups.

These are the six stages to Back on Track:

    Stage 1—Identify priority threatened species for each Natural Resource Management (NRM) region and the state of Queensland

    Technical workshops: Each species native to Queensland is assessed by panels of species experts against seven criteria (regardless of their current threatened classification under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 or Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). These criteria consider the probability of extinction, consequences of extinction and potential for recovery of the species over the whole state of Queensland.

    Criteria weighting: As the decisions of managers influence conservation priorities, managers and/or senior staff weight each criterion based on how the criteria are valued when allocating resources. Separate weightings are decided by the managers of each NRM region, and for the State (weightings decided by the senior managers of the department).

    Final Back on Track scores for each species: The technical expert scores are multiplied by the Managers' Weighting to determine the total score for each species. Based on their total score, species are ranked as Critical, High, Medium, Low priority or as data deficient. Data deficient species are species too poorly known to be assessed using the Back on Track criteria, and are priorities for research. Species ranked as Critical or High priorities provide an initial focus for further analysis in the further stages of Back on Track.

    Stage 2—Regionally specific information collated

    A list of priority species is identified for each NRM region, and their presence is verified by experts nominated by the regional NRM group. Distributions of priority species are mapped using the Queensland Government's WildNet records where possible.

    Known threats are collated for each species from existing documents (e.g. relevant Threatened Species Recovery Plans, Action Plans and Species Management Profiles).

    Stage 3—Workshop to gather local expertise and knowledge of threats and actions to achieve species recovery

    A two day workshop is organised for each NRM region, where NRM regional staff identify and invite participants who have a range of biodiversity knowledge and experience (in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments).

    This includes on-ground regional experience, regional technical and scientific knowledge. Invitees may include representatives from:

    • Local Government and State Government who work on regional threatened species or biodiversity conservation issues
    • Relevant regional industry
    • Relevant businesses interests
    • Community groups

    The aim of the workshop is to use the Back on Track list of Critical and High priority species for the NRM region, and identify the major threats impacting the species in the region and then develop multi-species actions to address these threats.

    Stage 4—Post workshop research, action document development and consultation

    Considerable input is provided post workshop to further detail and prioritise actions to address key threats. This ensures actions are targeted to achieve the best allocation of resources.

    Post workshop consultation is sought with a range of people in the region including:

    • NRM staff.
    • Community volunteers undertaking biodiversity work.
    • Relevant regional State Government staff
    • Interested stakeholders such as farmers and fishers.

    The resulting Back on Track Actions for Biodiversity documents provides a five year guide to address the decline of priority species in each region through cost-effective actions to achieve the greatest biodiversity benefits.

    Stage 5—Support for the Regional Actions for Biodiversity document

    The Actions for Biodiversity document increases the capacity of government, NRM bodies and communities to make decisions about where to focus on-ground action and investment to achieve improved biodiversity outcomes.

    Stage 6—Implementation and review

    As actions identified in the document are implemented, reporting will be undertaken to monitor progress. This is especially so for new information on species and as new technical assessments of species are undertaken.