A Habitat Condition Assessment System for Australia

This project is aiming to provide Australia with its first consistent, repeatable and cost-efficient national biodiversity habitat condition assessment and reporting capability—Habitat Condition Assessment System (HCAS).

It is expected that this new system will enhance our capacity to:

  • identify priority areas for management interventions
  • undertake national environmental reporting
  • identify natural and non‐natural influences on habitat condition.

The HCAS approach breaks new ground through its use of remote sensing, spatial ecological modelling and sparse data from on ground condition assessments to generate a national view of condition.

The HCAS is based on the premise that habitat occurring at places with similar abiotic environmental conditions (e.g. soil, landform, water availability) should look similar when viewed using remote sensing, averaged across seasons and years. Where two such places have markedly different remotely-sensed signals, this may indicate a difference in their condition for biodiversity.

This capability will consider differences in condition caused by natural and seasonal fluctuations, as well as non-natural disturbances, such as climate change, and will offer decision makers with the capacity to respond more rapidly and strategically to changes in environmental condition.

More detail is available in the project flier.

Download this fact sheet for a progress update as at June 2019.

Project publications


Donohue RJ, Harwood TD, Williams KJ, Ferrier S and McVicar TR (2014) Estimating habitat condition using time series remote sensing and ecological survey data. CSIRO Earth Observation and Informatics Transformational Capability Platform Client Report EP1311716. CSIRO, Canberra.

Journal papers

Harwood TD, Donohue RJ, Williams KJ, Ferrier S, McVicar TR, Newell G and White M (2016) HCAS: A new way to assess the condition of natural habitats for terrestrial biodiversity across whole regions using remote sensing data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 7(9), 1050-1059. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12579.

Conference presentations

Williams KJ, Dickson F, Donohue R, Ferrier S, Harwood T, Lehmann E, Lyon P, Macfarlane C, McVicar T, Ozolins M, Pirzl R, Pinner L, Storey R and White M (2018) National mapping of biodiversity habitat condition for comparative assessments across regions. Ecosystem Surprises and Rapid Collapse, Boden Research Conference, Australian Academy of Science, 8-9 May 2018. Book of abstracts, page 53.


Harwood T, Williams K, Ferrier S, Ota N and Perry J (2016) 9-second gridded continental Australia representation within the National Reserve System 2015 for Vascular Plants 1990:2050 CanESM2/MIROC5 RCP 4.5/8.5 (CMIP5) (GDM: VAS_v5_r11). v3. CSIRO. Data Collection. http://doi.org/10.4225/08/5820f9ccaafb1.

Other media

Harwood T, Donohue R, Ferrier S, McVicar T, Newell G, White M and Williams K (2016) Can We Really Measure Habitat Condition From Space? methods.blog. Available online: https://methodsblog.wordpress.com/2016/2011/2029/habitat-condition-from-space/.