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What is a measure?

Focussing efforts to improve environmental information

An essential environmental measure is a quantifiable aspect of the environment that is key to tracking change in the state of the environment. For example, measures of climate may include rainfall, temperature, wind speed and direction, or sea surface temperature. Measures are focused at a national scale but are also useful at regional and local scales.

Identifying essential environmental measures is a critical first step towards long-term improvements in the availability of environmental information. Measures help us to prioritise where we should collect new data and where we should improve the availability of existing data.

Measures have multiple uses

Measures are common to the data needs of a wide range of analysis and reporting (Figure 1). Measures may not satisfy the data needs of any one end-use, but they are common to the needs of multiple end-uses. For example, a measure such as sea surface temperature can be used as an indicator of ecosystem stress, as an indicator of climate change, or as an input to weather prediction.


Infographic showing potential data applications for native vegetation essential environmental measures
Figure 1b: Example use cases for native vegetation measures


Infographic showing potential data applications for marine essential environmental measures
Figure 1a: Example use cases for marine measures











Measures are independent of methods 


Diagram illustrating that an essential environmental measure can be observed with both on-ground methods and remote sensing methods.
Figure 2: Measures are defined independently of observation method
Measure-related data can be collected using various observation methods, including both on-ground methods (e.g. a field survey) and remote sensing methods (e.g. satellite imagery) (Figure 2). Defining measures independently of observation method means that measures remain relevant in the face of methodological developments (e.g. new technologies).


Measures help guide information reform

Measures help guide data collection and help prioritise projects that make existing data more findable, accessible, interopable and reusable (FAIR).

Over time, measures will be published for each of the nine theme areas in the national State of the Environment report: Atmosphere, Built Environment, Heritage, Biodiversity, Land, Inland Water, Coasts, Marine Environment, and Antarctic Environment.



Image at top of page: Common noddies in flight over Cato Island in the Coral Sea. Shared copyright (Regulus Fogagnolo and the Department of the Environment and Energy)