Baseline Requirements for Biological Monitoring Programs Used to Assess Mining Impact

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 0
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
Biological monitoring programs for environmental protection require techniques that will provide both early detection of possible adverse effects, and assessment of the ecological significance of these effects. Monitoring techniques must include responses sensitive to the impact, that can be subjected to rigorous statistical analysis and for which statistical power is high. Such issues in baseline research of 'what and how to measure?' and 'for how long?' have been the focus of a program being developed to monitor and assess effects of mining operations on the effectively pristine, freshwater ecosystems of the Alligator Rivers Region (ARR) in tropical northern Australia. Application of the BACIP design, utilising a form of temporal replication, to univariate data (single species) and multivariate (community) data is described. For new ventures in Australia (such as mining), monitoring programs should be designed to establish with high probability that an impact on the ecosystem no greater than a prescribed amount has gone undetected - as opposed to simply allowing development to continue as long as 'proof' of impact is not available. Such a precautionary approach represents a shifting of the 'burden of proof' and would require with the BACIP design, a minimum number of baseline years in order to achieve some desired level of statistical power in a test for impact. Power analyses conducted on two to five years (depending upon the technique) of baseline data from streams of the ARR indicate that the BACIP design would not impose developmental constraints on mining and that a policy of reversal of the burden of proof would provide the cornerstone required for managing such development in an ecologically sustainable manner.
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