Appendix B Australian guidelines on EIA

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) migrating to a new location within their territorial bounds of the Auster area. © Australian Antarctic Division.

Practical definitions and examples

(For the purpose of the guidelines although not defined in the legislation)

Impact: Any change, effect, deviation or consequence, whether short or long-term, adverse or beneficial, temporary or irreversible, that accrues from the development, initiation, conduct, operation, maintenance or decommissioning of an activity.

Direct effect: Any first order effect, impact or consequence that may be directly associated with an activity. An example follows:

  • acute toxicity effects (mortality) in marine birds, intertidal limpets or pelagic krill, caused by exposure to toxic constituents of petroleum products spilt at sea.

Indirect effect: Any second order effect, impact or consequence that may be causally associated with an activity. An example follows:

  • particulate emissions from combustion leading to melting of ice or snow that subsequently causes loss of ice or snow alga habitat.

Cumulative impact: Effects, impacts, or consequences that may come from similar or varied sources but, that are additive, antagonistic or synergistic in their effect, impact or consequence, e.g.:

  • a significant increase in the number of vehicles in an ecologically sensitive area.

Environment: The combination of physical media (i.e. air, land and water), the biota (i.e. living organisms), and the physical, chemical, biological and ecological processes that are evidenced as ecological systems (i.e. ecosystems). This definition includes those environments that are relatively undisturbed as well as those that have experienced prior natural or anthropogenic disturbances. Environments may be characterised on local, regional or continental scales; and they may contain individual landscape elements and ecosystems or combinations of landscape elements and ecosystems.

Environmental Assessment: A process for gathering, analysing and interpreting information on proposed activities and on environmental resources and qualities that allows determination of the impacts of those activities on those resources and qualities. It is part of the overall activity planning process that helps decision-makers to understand, prevent or mitigate the environmental consequences of their decisions. It is a process that relies on application of formal procedures to available information and is a process that often must depend upon judgment and experience when certain information is unavailable. The entire process is strengthened when use of such judgment and experience is acknowledged explicitly in the assessment.

Initial Environmental Reference State: The overall character of the site of a proposed activity as evidenced by such information as is available from scientific or monitoring studies, physical geographic descriptions, or knowledge about the biota and the environmental processes existing at the site. The site so characterised may be in a relatively undisturbed state or it may have been subjected to prior impacts (both natural and anthropogenic).

Mitigation: The use of practice, procedure or technology to minimise or to prevent impacts associated with proposed activities.

Monitoring: The purposeful measurement of the qualities or quantities of physical media, biota, or biological and ecological processes to characterise an environment or any of its physical, chemical or biological components over time and space in their natural or impacted states. To be effective, the goals of monitoring studies must be stated and understood explicitly; and there must be careful planning to assure that experimental designs, sampling and statistical techniques adequately support data interpretations. Also, there is the need to provide adequate mechanisms for quality control and quality assurance of analytical techniques and equipment used in monitoring studies.