Pathway to an Enhanced Western Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Knowledge System

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy and BHP Billiton report on an enhanced terrestrial biodiversity knowledge system for Western Australia provides a useful overview of the current situation but is disappointing in a number of ways.

It is appreciated that the purpose of the report is a preliminary analysis of the results of a review of the literature and interviews with experts and practitioners in government, industry, environmental NGOs and the scientific community; however, it fails to provide a clear set of recommendations that could be implemented to improve the identified deficiencies in the current system. It is also interesting to note that the report placed a heavy emphasis on a lack of survey data sharing by companies because the information is ‘commercial-in-confidence’.

My experience in the vertebrate fauna area is that commercial consultants and government departments area are unable to or reluctant to share data. If the data in government databases (DEC, WAM, DMP etc) were made freely available to the public then a substantial amount of additional vertebrate fauna survey data would be readily available to everyone and companies commercial restrictions for not sharing data would no longer be a barrier to the sharing of knowledge/data. Restrictions placed on accessing databases severely limit the usefulness of these data sources.

Another obvious limitation of this report is the source of information. Other than the hard data reported in the numerous tables, the acknowledgements section indicates the authors spoke to numerous senior staff in the various agencies. Senior staff such as Paul Vogel, Kimberley Dripps, etc are unlikely to be publically critical of the deficiencies in their agency’s operations and are more likely to be positively promoting their achievements. There is no obvious attempt to verify or test the veracity of the many views reported, presumably by these people, as there is little discussion of dissenting or alternative views in the report.

Most of the problems and issues raised in the report are well known, and there are few surprises, so it seems like a lot of money has been spent on another report that will collect dust on our shelves.

What do you think?

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