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Ecosystem Reporting Categories

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                  ecosystem reporting categories are groups of ecosystems with similar features

Ecological systems, or ecosystems in short, can be defined by their combination of biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components; and how these components interact together (often termed ecological processes or ecosystem functions). The international Convention on Biological Diversity describes an ecosystem as "a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit". The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) describes an ecosystem as having “strong interactions among components of the system and weak interactions across its boundaries; discontinuities of strong interactions become boundaries".

At the global scale, the MA developed a set of "Reporting Categories" from which they assessed the ecosystem services derived from these. These Reporting Categories include: Marine, Coastal, Inland Water, Forest, Dryland, Island, Mountain, Polar, Cultivated and Urban. Reporting Categories are not technically recognised as ecosystems themselves, but rather each Category contains a number of natural or human modified systems representing all ecosystems across the globe. The natural or human modified systems have been grouped under each Reporting Category by similarities in: climatic conditions, geophysical condition, dominant use by humans, surface cover, species composition and resource management systems and institutions.

For the SEQ regional scale assessment these Reporting Categories were considered too broad, so each Reporting Category was sub-classified into a number of natural or human modified systems specifically representing all ecosystems across SEQ (Polar was excluded as there are no polar regions in SEQ). These sub-classifications are termed Ecosystem Reporting Categories, in which 32 Ecosystem Reporting Categories have been identified and described. These Ecosystem Reporting Categories were grouped under each Reporting Category by the same methdology as described above for the MA.

Maps showing where each of the 32 Ecosystem Reporting Categories are located in the SEQ region have been developed. The map in the top right corner of this webpage ('Total Ecosystem Reporting Categories') is an overlay of all 32 maps. The data sets underpinning the maps are located in the Quick Index. Table 1 below lists and describes each of the 32 Ecosystem Reporting Categories under the MA's Reporting Categories. By clicking on the name of each Ecosystem Reporting Category in the Table, more information is provided on that specific Category.


Table 1: List and descriptions of Ecosystem Reporting Categories.

Reporting Category Ecosystem Reporting Category Description
Marine Deep Ocean Deep ocean ecosystems are where the sea is deeper than 50m and the water regimes are determined primarily by the ebb and flow of oceanic tides (waves and currents).
Coastal Pelagic Pelagic ecosystems consist of the water above the sea floor from 1 - 50m. Flora are represented primarily by macro-algae and micro-algae.
Benthic Benthic ecosystems include the sea floor, the water column up to 1m and any bottom-dwelling organisms. The substrate consists predominately of sand and slit and flora are represented primarily by macro-algae and micro-algae.
Coral Reefs Coral reefs are underwater structures created by a thin layer of living coral polyps secreting calcium carbonate to build a limestone skeleton over many generations.
Seagrass Seagrass are marine flowering plants that form meadows in estuaries and shallow coastal waters with sandy or muddy substrates.
Rocky Shores Rocky outcrops in coastal areas (including sub-ecosystems of platforms, rock pools and boulder fields). Characteristic vegetation may include seaweeds (algae), lichens and microscopic plants.
Beaches The part of a coast that is washed by waves or tides which cover it with sediments of various sizes and composition such as sand or pebbles (unconsolidated intertidal materials). This ecosystem is usually unvegetated.
Dunes Vegetated sand ridges.
Coastal Zone Wetlands Coastal zone wetlands include mangrove and estuarine (areas of coastal river mouth characterised by tidal effects and mixing of fresh with sea water) ecosystems.
Inland Water Palustrine Wetlands Palustrine wetlands are primarily vegetated non-channel environments (e.g. billabongs, swamps, bogs, springs and soaks) and have more than 30 percent emergent vegetation. 
Lacustrine Wetlands Lacustrine wetlands are large, open, water-dominated systems (e.g. lakes). This definition also applies to modified systems which possess characteristics similar to lacustrine systems (e.g. deep standing or slow-moving waters).
Riverine Wetlands Riverine wetlands describe all deepwater habitats within a channel. The channels are naturally or artificially created and they periodically or continuously contain moving water or form a connecting link between two bodies of standing water.
Forest Rainforests Rainforests are native forests with dense, often closed (>80% crown cover) canopy. A range of lifeforms, including trees, palms, shrubs, ferns, vines, tree ferns and epiphytes may be abundant and arranged in several layers and composed of a large number of fire sensitive, shade tolerant species. Grasses, eucalypts and other light loving plants are usually absent.
Sclerophyll Forests Sclerophyll forest are generally dominated by plants that have hard leaves adapted to drought and are fire tolerant (i.e. can re-sprout after fire, or have hard-coated or hard-capsuled seeds that can survive fire). Eucalypt (including Corymbia or Angophora), Melaleuca or Acacia are common genera in the canopy where the canopy ranges from 50 - 80%. Understories are dominated by grasses or shrubs.
Native Plantations Native plantations are monocultures of species that naturally occur in the region with potentially 30% canopy cover and are planted by people.
Exotic Plantations Exotic plantations are monocultures of species that do not naturally occur in the region with potentially 30% canopy cover and are planted by people.
Native Regrowth Regrowth is woody vegetation that has regrown after removal of the canopy. The structure of regrowth varies with age as well as management history.
Dryland Native and Improved Grasslands Native grasslands are terrestrial ecosystems where there are few or no trees present naturally and the grassy understorey species are native to SEQ. Improved grasslands are those ecosystems where the tree canopy has largely been removed; the resultant grassland is often  comprised predominantly of exotic species of grass but also may be dominated by native grass species. Grasses are the dominant species in these ecosystems and comprise a high proportion of the total biomass.
Shrubland - Woodland Shrublands are dominated by woody vegetation less than 2 m high or if greater than 2 m by woody vegetation with multiple stems (from the base of the plant). Woodlands are dominated by trees (single stemmed woody vegetation greater than 2 m) with canopy cover < 50%. 
Island Moreton Island Moreton Island is the second most northerly of the large sand islands in SEQ. It is the most isolated of the coastal sand islands.
Bribie Island Bribie Island is the northern most of the four largest sand islands. It is separated from mainland SEQ by Pumicestone Passage and is the only island connected by bridge.
North Stradbroke Island North Stradbroke Island is one of the four largest sand islands in SEQ. This island is located off Redland Bay.
South Stradbroke and other Bay Islands South Stradbroke Island is the southern most of the four largest sand islands. This island runs from the south of Brisbane to the northern end of the Gold Coast. Also, the smaller sand islands of Moreton Bay are included in this Category.
Mountain Montane This ecosystem is characteristiced by low stunted heath like vegetation, lack of soil nutrients, hard rock and tough growing conditions.
Cultivated Sugar Cane Horticulture areas where sugar cane is grown (i.e. canelands).
Horticulture - Small crops Horticulture areas where small crops are grown for food.
Horticulture - Tree crops Horticulture areas where tree crops are grown for food.
Other Irrigated Crops Horticulture areas where crops are grown for fodder, pasture and cereals.
Urban Dams Artificial waterbodies created for the storage of water.
Hard Surfaces Human-made compacted surfaces often covered with concrete, bitumen, tiles or pavers.
Parks and Gardens Public parks and gardens managed by councils/government (including botanical gardens).
Residential Gardens Private gardens managed by private landholders.

Although Ecosystem Reporting Categories were considered broad but detailed enough for regional ecosystem service assessments, they still were not considered appropriate for local or site scale assessments. Therefore, Regional Ecosystems (REs) as developed by the Queensland Herbarium have been grouped under the 'natural' terrestrial (land based) Ecosystem Reporting Categories. A table listing each Ecosystem Reporting Category and the REs grouped under each Category can be found here, as well in the Quick Index. Where REs were not a relevant sub-classification (i.e. for those Ecosystem Reporting Categories in the MA's Marine Reporting Category, some of the Coastal Ecosystem Reporting Categories and the human modified systems), land cover or land-use categories were applied; or sub-classifications were identified through management plans, advice by Experts or managing agencies.

It is recognised that many REs and Ecosystem Reporting Categories may fit into one or more of the other categories (depending on the context of the assessment and because ecosystem boundaries often overlap e.g. ecotones). For example, the Ecosystem Reporting Category 'Native Plantations' could fit under the Forest Reporting Category or the Cultivated Reporting Category of the MA. Developing the list of Ecosystem Reporting Categories necessarily created intangible and arbitrary boundaries across SEQ. Identifying the best fit Category was conducted through literature reviews, management plans and with Expert local knowledge (including from the Queensland Herbarium).

For the purpose of this regional scale framework, Ecosystem Reporting Categories were recognised as surrogate ecosystems with boundaries of similar climatic conditions, geophysical condition, dominant use by humans, surface cover, species composition and resource management systems and institutions. These Ecosystem Reporting Categories perform different functions and in different magnitudes, therefore they have the potential to provide different suites of ecosystem services. Participants in the Expert Panels were asked to score the magnitude each Ecosystem Reporting Category performed different ecosystem functions relative to the other Ecosystem Reporting Categories (on a scale of 0 - 5). More information on the scoring system can be obtained under About the Framework and the complete matrices showing the relativity is located in the Quick Index. Users of this information should also be familiar with the information in Framework Boundaries and Key Principles.

Depending on the scale and purpose of application, stakeholders may prefer to use REs, Ecosystem Reporting Categories or Reporting Categories for their ecosystem services assessment. Information on the webpages for each Ecosystem Reporting Category therefore includes a range of information, for example: a description of the Ecosystem Reporting Category in terms of the functions it performs, a table showing the relative magnitude this Ecosystem Reporting Category performs each function, discussion on the types of ecosystems under this Ecosystem Reporting Category, a map identifying where the ecosystems in that Category are located in SEQ, information on the area and extent of that Ecosystem Reporting Category in SEQ, any threats to the ecosystems in this Category and details on the current management of these ecosystems.