High conservation value can be defined in any number of ways. It encompasses everything from entire pristine ecosystems such as those contained in the World Heritage Area (WHA), to individual threatened invertebrate species. From a management perspective, the best way to address it is to consider the full range of sites and values, and impose upon them a set of rules that allows them to be prioritised.
Historically, conservation priorities have been assigned using less systematic methods. As managers became aware of an important site or value, its conservation worth was considered, and this lead to its inclusion (or otherwise) in some form of protected area. This method ultimately hinges upon a series of subjective decisions made by natural resource managers, and is performed independently for each site once it has been nominated.
The CFEV program offers a comprehensive alternative to this as it is based upon a statewide audit of freshwater-dependent ecosystems and this has been used to generate a comprehensive assessment of conservation value. It should be noted that this does not preclude the conservation of ecosystems for criteria outside those considered by the project (i.e. Ramsar sites or Wild Rivers). It simply offers an objective assessment regarding the conservation value and priority for conservation management across the state, so that freshwater ecosystems can be considered in light of their conservation values throughout all aspects of natural resource management.
CFEV assessment components
There are two assessment components produced by the CFEV program that can inform decisions made about the relative conservation values of different sites. Each of them is constructed slightly differently, and this makes them useful tools for different conservation management scenarios. Note, these assessments were conducted irrespective of land tenure.
Representative Conservation Value (RCV)
Freshwater ecosystems are classified into different biological and physical classes. The RCV assessment ranks spatial units (i.e. individual wetlands or river sections) based on their representativeness of particular biological and physical classes (e.g. physical type, vegetation, aquatic biota etc.). Spatial units containing freshwater values that are rare are ranked higher than those that are common. A preference is also given to those sites with high Naturalness. This assessment does not consider Special Values. See also Representativeness.
Integrated Conservation Value (ICV)
A relative ranking of conservation value which combines RCV with information on the presence of Special Values (e.g. threatened flora and fauna species, priority geomorphic feature or important bird sites). See also Distinctiveness.