Regional threat-abatement and species-recovery planning

12 April 2022

What is regional threat-abatement planning?

Threat-abatement plans are statutory requirements designed to protect biodiversity from a threatening process, independent of land tenure (1). Broad-scale, multi-tenure plans are needed to address threats to native species and communities, which are rarely constrained by property or government boundaries. Threat-abatement plans are inherently regional, given the need to addresses threats across different land tenures. While statutory threat-abatement plans may be focused on a single threat due to planning obligations, efficient resourcing of actions guided by these plans is best achieved when plans consider multiple threats to multiple species at a regional level.  Taking a multi-threat planning approach at a regional level can guarantee greater species recovery outcomes.

Statutory obligations for regional threat-abatement planning

Threat abatement plans are required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and most state legislation, such as the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.

Threatening processes range from specific (such as chytrid fungus in amphibians) through to general (such as land clearing), and each process presents different levels of complexity depending on the changes required to address the problem. Ideally, state and territory threat-abatement plans align with and interact in a meaningful way with national threat-abatement plans. However, this is not always the case. Regional threat-abatement plans will likely have to work with and align to both levels (state and national) of threat-abatement plans.

Image shows deforestation in an Australian landscape

An Australian landscape impacted by deforestation. Photo: Jackson Photography.

How and why is regional threat-abatement planning used?

In managing various threats to biodiversity, it is important to prioritise multiple management actions and the levels of effort to apply these. This can be challenging, requiring structured data acquisition and implementation in optimisation frameworks that consider interactions between species and threats across spatial scales. However, customised tools have been developed for this purpose and plans that do prioritise multiple actions – taking into consideration specific species–threat interactions – can deliver great outcomes across a larger range of species. After planning and moving into implementation, the challenge is to coordinate efforts across different plans to ensure efficient use of scarce resources.

Decision-support tools

Spatial prioritisation methods, such as Zonation or Marxan, are increasingly being used for regional planning because they can consider multiple proposed developments on multiple species over large scales (2).  Customised optimisation approaches have also been developed for the purpose of spatial threat-abatement planning across multiple species and threats (3). Outputs can show areas where development needs to be avoided or, conversely, where development would be least impactful.

One of the key recommendations from the Samuel’s 2020 review of the EPBC Act was the need for a more strategic, coordinated approach to biodiversity conservation. Permits and plans that are narrow in scope are part of the problem of ongoing decline of biodiversity. It is ideal for a threat-abatement approach to take into account multiple threats at regional level. However, where this is not feasible or required, the same decision-support tools and planning processes can be done for individual threat-abatement or regional species-recovery plans.

What does success look like?

A regional plan that can guide sustainable development decisions has:

  • spatially explicit areas for particular types of threat-management activities (individually and as bundled sets of management actions)
  • clearly articulated relationships between species and threats, and expected changes in species populations over time
  • threat-management actions that are spatially explicit but also articulate clear temporal dynamics and level of management required (low to high in terms of intensity)
  • a staged and adaptive approach that allows the plan to be changed if monitoring shows that the original prescriptions are not working.

These summaries are works in progress and you can contact Dr Vanessa Adams if you have constructive feedback on these summaries.

Other regional planning approach summaries


  1. Leys A (2004) ‘Threat abatement plans: strategic pest management for biodiversity conservation‘, in Hutching P, Lunney D and Dickman C (eds) Threatened species legislation: is it just an Act?, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, doi:10.7882/0958608598.
  2. Whitehead AL, Kujala H and Wintle BA (2017). ‘Dealing with cumulative biodiversity impacts in strategic environmental assessment: A new frontier for conservation planning‘, Conservation Letters, 10(2):195–204.
  3. Cattarino L, Hermoso V, Carwardine J, Kennard MJ and Linke S (2015) ‘Multi-action planning for threat management: a novel approach for the spatial prioritization of conservation actions‘, PLoS ONE 10:e0128027; and Carwardine J, O’Connor T, Legge S, Mackey B, Possingham HP and Martin TG (2012) ‘Prioritizing threat management for biodiversity conservation‘, Conservation Letters 5:196–204.

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