Many research efforts have demonstrated that a direct environmental impact from a single action is often insignificant, and in reality, it is the numerous minor impacts from multiple actions that cause the greatest environmental harm (Dales 2011, Franks et al. 2012, DNRM 2013, Finlayson et al. 2008, Neville 2009, Sonter et al. 2013). These are referred to as cumulative impacts, “the successive, incremental, and combined impacts of multiple actions on the environment” (Dales, J 2011). There are four characteristics of cumulative impacts as summarized from Franks et al. 2012, these include;
1. Cumulative impacts may be caused by future, present or past activities,
2. Cumulative impacts can differ greatly in intensity, space…show more content… 2012).
Due to population growth, much pressure has been placed on natural resources and the ecosystem services that are essential to human life (Franks et al. 2012). Rapid changes to the environment such as climate change and the use of natural resources affect the resilience of natural systems. Therefore, appropriate management and assessment of cumulative impacts on the terrestrial and marine environment from anthropogenic activities is crucial, albeit difficult, as impacts often extend outside of the geographic location of a development. Further, impacts from an action can have a compounding effect on outside systems already under stress from unrelated activities. Although much legislation has been enacted in attempt to buffer stressors caused by anthropogenic land use, environmental impact assessment and management approaches are often reactive, and consider mainly the impacts of individual activities and how to mitigate them (Dales, J 2011, Sonter et al. 2013). Therefore, a more integrated, proactive and holistic approach needs to be applied when it comes to the assessment and management cumulative impacts.
In the following essay, I will explore cumulative impacts on the terrestrial and marine environment resulting from groundwater use, mining and agricultural practices in the Australian context. Using examples from the Murray Darling Basin, Bowen Basin, the Fitzroy River and the Great Barrier Reef, I will