Kakadu National Park

Country
Australia
Inscribed in
1992
Criteria
(i)
(vi)
(vii)
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
This unique archaeological and ethnological reserve, located in the Northern Territory, has been inhabited continuously for more than 40,000 years. The cave paintings, rock carvings and archaeological sites record the skills and way of life of the region’s inhabitants, from the hunter-gatherers of prehistoric times to the Aboriginal people still living there. It is a unique example of a complex of ecosystems, including tidal flats, floodplains, lowlands and plateaux, and provides a habitat for a wide range of rare or endemic species of plants and animals. © UNESCO
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Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
08 Dec 2020
Significant concern
This large, spectacular and biodiversity-rich site faces many challenges. Uncertainty surrounds the adequacy of rehabilitation works on former uranium mining operations, although there is as yet no evidence to suggest that this concern is necessary. Decline in many species of small mammals, some reptiles and an ecological community is resulting in ongoing decline in the intactness of the site and of its value as an important refuge for biodiversity conservation. Although there is dedicated and sustained management, resulting in effective control of some threats (such as the invasive Mimosa pigra), many threats remain ubiquitous and largely uncontrolled. Some threats (such as saltwater intrusion) are of increasing extent and magnitude and may be almost intractable. The conservation outlook for this outstanding World Heritage site therefore remains of Significant Concern.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Despite the large size and management of some threats in the World Heritage site, a significant decline in many species of small mammals and reptiles, and some birds (and probably some plants), has occurred since inscription, with extirpation from the site of some threatened species. Many species continue to be at risk of decline. Although a conservation strategy for the Park's threatened species exists, for many threatened and endemic species there is no specific targeted management actions. However, research shows improvements in fire management in stone country (Murphy et al 2015). Research has also established that enhancing or recovering habitat condition via fire management and feral herbivore culls are most effective management response (Stobo-Wilson et al., 2020). The ongoing loss of the site's biodiversity has been assessed as of high concern in previous assessments and many threatened (and non-threatened) species continue to decline, and associated World Heritage values have continued to decline.

Overall THREATS

Very High Threat
The current and future threat environment for this site is complex and of severe concern. Many threats (such as fire and introduced invasive animals) operate across the entire extent of the site. Some management efforts have resulted in at least intermittent reduction in the impacts of fire, and positive results over the period 2016-2018 were some of the best in the history of the park. Some of the invasive species are of particular concern. The establishment of cane toads has caused severe declines in Kakadu and elsewhere of many native predators. Feral cats remain uncontrolled across almost all of the park, and impacts of pigs and some weeds continue. Some of these factors interact resulting in compounding impacts The most drastic decline in biodiversity occurred in the period 1995-2005 and research results, including 2019, show species richness and abundance have not really changed since then. Climate change is already having detrimental impacts on the site's values, mostly through nascent saltwater intrusion. These impacts will increase in severity and consequences over coming decades, with marked detriment to the site's biodiversity and cultural values. The focus of park management is on reducing the impact of invasive species and fire to improve habitat condition and resilience in the face of increasing threats.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Mostly Effective
Conservation management in Kakadu involves dedicated planning with appropriate involvement and control by the Park's Traditional Owners. There is substantial investment in management of some threats, including fire and weeds. However, some threats (such as feral cats, cane toads, and saltwater intrusion) remain largely uncontrolled because they are intractable, beyond local control or effective responses are not yet formulated. Furthermore, fire management remains challenging. As a consequence of the limited control of at least some threats, important components of biodiversity have to date shown no recovery from previous decline.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
08 Dec 2020

Description of values

Great natural beauty and sweeping landscapes

Criterion
(vii)
Kakadu National Park has a wide variety of landscapes from mangrove-fringed tidal plains in the north, to vast floodplains, lowland hills and sandstone cliffs of the Arnhem Land escarpment. The escarpment consists of vertical and stepped cliff faces up to 330 metres high and extends in a jagged and unbroken line for hundreds of kilometres. The plateau areas behind the escarpment are inaccessible by vehicle and contain vast areas with no human infrastructure and limited public access. The views from the plateau are breath-taking (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Vast congregations of waterbirds

Criterion
(vii)
The entirety of Kakadu National Park is a listed Ramsar wetland and the large areas of internationally important wetlands in the central and northern regions provide habitat for millions of waterbirds, peaking in numbers from August to October (IUCN, 1981, 1992; State Party of Australia, 1991; World Heritage Committee, 2013). Waterbird abundance on the Kakadu National Park floodplains has been estimated at around 450-1600 birds/km2 in the dry season and 60-180 in the wet season, with magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) making up around 70% of the total (Pettit et al., 2011). Migratory shorebirds use the marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats of Kakadu.

Large and relatively intact landscape allowing continued evolutionary processes

Criterion
(ix)
The park has significant elements of four major river systems of tropical Australia. Kakadu’s ancient escarpment and stone country span more than two billion years of geological history, whereas the floodplains are geographically recent, dynamic environments, shaped by changing sea levels and seasonal flooding. The floodplains illustrate the ecological and geomorphological effects that have accompanied Holocene climate change and sea level rise. The Kakadu region has had relatively little impact from European settlement, by comparison with much of the Australian continent. With extensive and relatively unmodified natural vegetation and largely intact faunal composition, the park provides a unique opportunity to investigate large-scale evolutionary processes in a relatively undisturbed landscape (World Heritage Committee, 2013).

Conservation of significant habitats

Criterion
(x)
The park is unique in protecting almost the entire catchment of a large tropical river, conserving one of the widest range of significant habitats in tropical northern Australia (World Heritage Committee, 2013). Several important plant communities are restricted to the park (State Party of Australia, 1991). One extensive habitat occurring in the park, sandstone heaths of the Arnhem Plateau (formally known as the Arnhem Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex), is listed as an Endangered Community under national legislation, with unmanaged fire recognised as the key threatening process (CoA, 2012).

Threatened, endemic and relict plants

Criterion
(x)
Kakadu is the one of the most diverse and floristically intact area of northern Australia with more than 1,600 plant species recorded from the park. There are at least 200 plant species that are endemic to the Kakadu area (including the adjacent areas of western Arnhem Land), making it one of Australia’s centres of endemism for plants (Woinarski et al., 2006). Four species of plants are listed as threatened under national legislation or by IUCN (DNP, 2016a).

Threatened, endemic and relict mammals

Criterion
(x)
The park contains about one quarter of the land mammal species found in Australia, with more than 64 recorded species (77, DNP, 2007). Kakadu pebble-mound mouse (Pseudomys calabyi), Kakadu dunnart (Sminthopsis bindi), Arnhem rock-rat (Zyzomys maini) and Arnhem leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros inornatus) have most of their known population within the confines of the park. Other significant species include ghost bat (Macroderma gigas). Marine and coastal habitats support a substantial dugong (Dugong dugon) population (State Party of Australia, 1991; IUCN, 1992). Northern brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale pirata) (previously Phascogale tapoatafa), present at the time of inscription, has declined severely in Kakadu and may now be extirpated in the site; the nabarlek (Petrogale concinna) has also declined severely at the site over the last two decades (Northern Territory Government, 2012) and may have been extirpated.

Threatened, endemic and relict birds

Criterion
(x)
Over one third of Australia’s bird species (275) have been recorded in the park (IUCN, 1992). Birds whose survival depends in part on the protection of the park include the grey-rumped fruit-dove (Ptlinopus alligator) (BirdLife International, 2016), endemic to the Arnhem Land sandstone massif; and hooded parrot (Psephotus dissimilis. Also worthy of note are the white-throated grass-wren (Amytomis woodwardi) and the partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii smithii) (IUCN, 1981; State Party of Australia, 1991), as well as the Alligator Rivers yellow chat (Epthianura crocea tunneyi), now almost confined to the site and listed as endangered under the EPBC (National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Research Hub, 2019).
 

Threatened, endemic and relict frogs

Criterion
(x)
More than 25 (27, DNP, 2007) species of frogs have been recorded from the park (IUCN, 1992). Most notable is the uncommon, large carpenter frog (Limnodynastes lignarius), which is restricted to sandstone escarpment areas between western Arnhem Land and the Kimberleys. Other species Copland's Rock frog (Litoria coplandi), rockhole frog (Litoria meiriana), and the rarely seen masked frog (Litoria personata) (State Party of Australia, 1991). No amphibians are listed as being threatened (Woinarski and Winderlich, 2014).

Threatened and endemic reptiles

Criterion
(x)
The reptile fauna comprises a diverse range of species. At the time of nomination, two species of crocodile, seven species of freshwater turtle, three species of sea turtle, 77 lizard species (15 gecko species, four legless lizard species, 10 dragon species, 11 monitor species and 37 skink species) and 39 species of snake had been recorded in the park (State Party of Australia, 1991). The number of known reptile species in the park has increased substantially since then. There are many endemic or near endemic reptile species including the Oenpelli python (Nawaran oenpelliensis), yellow-snouted gecko (Lucasium occultum), dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata), giant cave gecko (Pseudothecadactylus lindneri), Arnhem phasmid gecko (Strophurus horneri), Arnhem Land skink (Bellatorius obiri), Jabiluka ctenotus (Ctenotus arnhemensis), brown-backed ctenotus (C. coggeri), Magela ctenotus (C. gagadju), and Jabiluka dwarf skink (Menetia concinna) (Woinarski et al. 2009). Kakadu contains among the most important breeding habitat in the world for the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) (IUCN, 1981, 1992). Field Island, at the mouth of the South Alligator River, has a small beach which regularly supports small numbers of nesting Flatback Turtle (Groom et al., 2017).

Threatened, endemic and relict fish

Criterion
(x)
The site is one of the most species rich regions for freshwater fishes in Australia supporting around 60 freshwater fishes (Pusey et al. 2017; Shelley et al. 2019; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory records and research), However, it is somewhat subjective and difficult to fully characterise a list, as the free flowing nature of the region’s rivers allows ready movement and interchange of species between estuarine and freshwater habitats (or the biology is still unknown). These species include: endemic freshwater fishes that complete their lifecycle only in the Kakadu escarpment region with a large part of their range included within Kakadu National Park, namely Mariana's hardyhead, exquisite rainbowfish, Midgley's grunter, Barraway’s fish and Upper Katherine purple-spotted gudgeon; obligate freshwater species that complete their lifecycle in freshwater like sooty grunter, Butler’s grunter, spangled grunter, rainbowfishes, several eel-tailed catfishes, delicate blue-eye); eurhyaline species capable of maintaining populations in both fresh and estuarine marine (e.g. seven-spot archerfish); mostly estuarine or marine that are known to move into and live in freshwater, like the elasmobranchs (freshwater sawfish, bull shark), some/all forktail catfish and numerous vagrants like snub-nosed garfish, long-jawed river garfish, sunset gudgeon); other diadromous species that include large portion of their lifecycle in fresh and salt water with varying degrees of flexibility (barramundi, tarpon, Indonesian shortfin eel, soles).

Threatened and endemic invertebrates

Criterion
(x)
Estimates of the total invertebrate population of Kakadu range between 10, 000 and 100,000 species. More research is needed to refine this estimate. (State Party of Australia, 1991). Known invertebrates include 55 species of termite and several hundred species of ants (IUCN, 1992). Although the conservation status of most invertebrates in Kakadu is unknown, one species is listed as being Critically Endangered and five as Vulnerable under IUCN criteria (Woinarski and Winderlich, 2014).

Assessment information

Very High Threat
The principal current threats comprise habitat degradation by invasive introduced plants and animals, especially herbivores, predation by introduced mammals, and fire regimes that have direct impacts on fire-sensitive plant species and result in habitat simplification (Russell-Smith et al. 2012) and diminution of the extent of a critical habitat, longer-unburnt woodlands (Woinarski et al. 2004; Woinarski & Legge 2013). Some of the invasive species are of particular concern. The establishment of cane toads has caused severe declines in Kakadu and elsewhere of many native predators. Feral cats remain uncontrolled across almost all of the park, and impacts of pigs and some weeds continue. Some of these factors interact resulting in compounding impacts and rapid and ongoing decline in key biodiversity values. There has not yet been enduring containment of most of these threats. Recent evidence (Stobo-Wilson, 2020) shows the best way to manage the impact of feral species, which is notoriously difficult across vast, remote landscapes, is to better manage habitat, as is the focus of park management. Mining has long been considered as a threat to the site. With the mine closing in 2021, the threat posed by processing will be replaced with the threat posed by the efficacy of the long term rehabilitated landform. This poses an opportunity and challenge to rehabilitate the mine site. Some impacts of climate change, most explicitly through progressive saltwater intrusion into lowland wetlands, are already being seen.
Mining/ Quarrying
(Mining)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger uranium mine, situated on an excised statutory project area surrounded by Kakadu, will close in 2021. The land is required to be rehabilitated back to a state in keeping with the adjacent park by January 2026, however whether this is possible remains uncertain. Detailed rehabilitation planning, including on-ground site works and seed collection within the national park in preparation for this purpose is  underway. Mining has long been viewed as one of the principal threats to the site and many reports, monitoring and discussion about the uranium issue have been produced (World Heritage Committee, 1998; Environment Australia, 1999). Restoration of historic small-scale mining has been undertaken elsewhere in Kakadu (IUCN, 1992) and is ongoing in the south of the park (UNESCO, 2003; DNP, 2012). The Koongarra Project Area (1,228 ha), one of the three mining leases surrounded by the park, was added to the World Heritage site in 2011 (World Heritage Committee, 2011), following sustained advocacy from the senior Djok Traditional Owner and Australian environmental NGO’s, meaning that uranium mining at Koongarra will never be permitted.
Given all processing will cease in the only operating mine (Ranger) in January 2021, that there is no ongoing mining within the site, and that habitat restoration (to a target condition comparable to Kakadu) is commencing, and will be subject to ongoing monitoring and supervision, the focus of environmental protection from mining shifts to oversight of the rehabilitation program. The major ongoing concern is for leakage of contaminants from contained waste deposits post-mining. These are required by Australian federal law to be isolated from the wider environment for ‘not less than ten thousand years”. Clearly this is a considerable governance and management challenge and there are concerns over the capacity of post closure financial, monitoring and adaptive management regimes. This risk is subject to supervision and regulation but as an untested scenario, confidence in the success of the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine site must be tempered by the possibility of ongoing contamination of the national park through leakage from the mine site, particularly the tailings storage facility (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).   
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Tourism)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Tourism in Kakadu provides a rare and essential source of income and employment for local communities. Tourism also contributes to the park’s operational budget, allowing the managers to undertake enhanced management initiatives for fire, invasive animals and invasive weeds.
With the closure of the Ranger Mine in 2021, there is a need to ensure nature tourism, rather than mining, provides a sustainable economic base for local communities.
Tourism in Kakadu is carefully managed to sensitively showcase the natural and cultural values to visitors, provide economic and employment opportunities for locals and improve management programs for threatening processes through increasing operational funds.
Potential impacts of more tourism opportunities and higher visitor numbers include increasing the transmission of invasive species and the risk of fire, as well as damaging landscape values with more roads, infrastructure and waste. With tourism a key driver for the local traditional owners, any potential impacts will be managed carefully into the future through Kakadu’s management plan. A new Tourism Master Plan is also in preparation.
In 2020, tourism to the site (and any associated impacts) has been severely curtailed due to international and national constraints imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other Ecosystem Modifications
(Woody encroachment)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
It has been hypothesised that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is favouring woody plant growth to the detriment of treeless floodplains, important habitat for numerous species and migratory waterfowl (Bowman et al., 2008). While other factors could also be causing woody encroachment, this rapid environmental shift could be a threat to a number of values of the World Heritage site.
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Invasive plants)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
Although Kakadu currently has a low proportion of weeds, with less than 8 per cent of the 700-plus plant species recorded in the park recognised as weeds, many of the park’s landscapes are being significantly impacted by invasive weeds.
Highly invasive species such as annual and perennial mission grass occupy large areas of the north-east and central parts of the park and are likely to continue to spread in lowland woodland environments. These species cause a dramatic increase in the intensity of fire, and such weed-fuelled high-intensity fires may threaten many natural values. Climate change modelling for the tropical savannas indicates these impacts will worsen under warmer temperatures (DNP, 2017).
Aquatic grassy weeds such as para grass and olive hymenachne have the potential to invade and alter vast areas. Salvinia is spreading in wetland environments and is now present in the Yellow Water visitor area and adjacent waterways used for recreational fishing. Although mimosa is largely under control due to a huge investment of effort over many years, it remains an ever-present threat to floodplain areas (DNP, 2017).
Many of these weed species can outcompete native plants, transform vegetation structure and dynamics, deplete soil nutrients, affect food and shelter resources for native animals, reduce the traditional foods of Indigenous people 'bush tucker' (Adams et al., 2018), and compound fire impacts through fuelling fires of increased intensity and frequency (Rossiter et al., 2003; Rossiter-Rachor et al., 2009; Setterfield et al., 2010, 2013; Adams and Setterfield, 2013; Ens et al., 2015). The weed West Indian pinkroot (Spigelia anthelmia) was recorded for the first time in Australia in 2019, in the Ranger mine area (Supervising Scientist 2019), and would have potential to cause significant impact in Kakadu. Therefore while weeds in the park are generally well managed. (Adams et al., 2015), the highly invasive nature of some species and the cost of managing them over such a vast area, means the threat to values of invasive plant species remains high.
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration, Temperature extremes, Storms/Flooding
(Climate change (especially saltwater intrusion))
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Climate change has the potential to affect almost all World Heritage values in the site. Effects of climate change are already evident, and these impacts will be magnified in the coming decades. Changes to salt and freshwater wetlands through saltwater intrusion have been observed in the park over the past few decades (Hyder, 2008). Saltwater intrusion can lead to the conversion of freshwater paperbark (Melaleuca spp.) swamps and other floodplain vegetation communities into extensions of the mangrove margin. Dieback of some Melaleuca (Bowman et al., 2010) and the extension of mangrove species (Asbridge et al., 2019) has been observed in Kakadu’s northern wetlands. Saltwater intrusion will increasingly cause major changes in the composition, productivity, ecological dynamics and values of the site's significant lowland wetland assemblages (Stephenson et al., 2018). Climate change is also likely to affect fire regimes, through changes in rainfall incidence and severity and temperature extremes. Extreme weather events have recently caused large scale losses of mangroves within the site and in the broader region (Asbridge et al., 2019; Duke et al., 2017). Park managers are implementing a climate change strategy that includes a range of adaptation, mitigation and communication actions to manage the anticipated changes. A challenge identified in 2003 is whether management will be able to cope with unpredictable changes in temperature, storm frequency, flooding, drought and changes in sea water composition to conserve the World Heritage values (UNESCO, 2003) – the strategy adopted in Kakadu is the adoption of management practices that maximise ecological resilience to increase capacity to adapt as climate change manifests (DNP, 2017).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
(Fire)
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Fire management in the park occurs in consultation and conjunction with the Binninj/Mungguy people who have managed Kakadu for generations. More recent active and strategic management of fire in Kakadu's sandstone environments (and by managers in adjacent Indigenous Protected Areas) has resulted in some improvements in fire regimes, with a reduced incidence of extensive and high intensity fires in this 'stone country' (Murphy et al., 2015). The 2019 season saw the most traditional owner employment in fire management in the history of the park, with most engaged in ground burning (data from Kakadu annual fire reports). In lowland wetlands, the cessation of traditional Indigenous floodplain burning practices in the past (McGregor et al., 2010), is thought likely to have contributed to the widespread increase in aquatic grasses and in particular the invasive para grass, on the floodplain (Bayliss et al., 2006). In more recent times, there have been efforts to reintroduce traditional fire management to areas such as the Kakadu wetlands (MacGregor et al., 2010). Over recent decades, decline of the small mammal fauna in the Kakadu National Park and elsewhere in northern Australia has been attributed, at least in part, to an increase in widespread and intense late season wildfires and consequent decline in the area of longer-unburnt habitat (that supports greater vegetation structural diversity, more shelter sites (e.g. hollow logs) and provides more fruit and other resources) (Woinarski et al., 2001, 2004, 2010; Griffiths et al., 2015; Lawes et al., 2015). There is now also strong evidence of the impacts of fire compounding impacts of feral cats as a threat to native mammals and many other species (McGregor et al., 2014, 2016; Woinarski et al., 2019); and most of Kakadu's threatened and declining mammals have preferences for less frequent and less severe fires than those prevailing more recently (Woinarski and Winderlich, 2014).
When carefully and skilfully managed, fire is potentially the park’s best landscape-scale management tool. A strategic burning program has been in place in the park since 2016 to carry out extensive prescribed burns in the early dry season, and some prescribed burning in the wet season. This creates mosaics of burnt and unburnt vegetation and firebreaks that help to reduce the extent and therefore damage of late season fires. The program has had success in reducing the extent and severity of fire in the park (DNP Annual Report, 2019-20), which should create conditions to support the recovery of species. However, challenges remain.
Fire outcomes in 2019, for a number of reasons, were some of the worst on record, with more than half of the park, and close to 70% of the lowland woodlands, burnt (Kakadu National Park Program Report 2019 - Fire). The extent of longer-unburnt (3+ years since fire) habitat, a critical resource for many of the site's threatened, endemic and relict species, was reduced dramatically in 2019, to less than 10% of the lowland woodlands: far less than the 25% recommended for, for example, the maintenance of bird assemblages in the region (Woinarski and Legge, 2013). The habitat requirements, and the fire regimes that they depend upon, of many of the site's threatened and endemic species are not being met. However, some of the best results in fire management in the history of the park were achieved in the period 2016-2018 inclusive due to the large scale, highly detailed and strategic program and, it is hoped that this programme will lead to the recovery of many species (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). Overall fire regimes in the Stone Country have been demonstrated to be in a more benign state now than at any time over the last three decades, most likely due to extensive use of prescribed burning (Murphy et al 2015; Evans and Russell-Smith, 2020). Similarly, while ongoing significant challenges remain, numerous other improvements have been made over the life of the park (Russell-smith et al., 2017).
 
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Invasive animals)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The management objective for invasive introduced animals in Kakadu is to limit, as far as possible, their adverse effects on the environment while taking into account the views and economic interests of its Aboriginal Traditional Owners. (http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu/management/programs/feral-animals.html). In 2017, a large feral animal culling program was undertaken in southern Kakadu following extensive consultation with Traditional Owners. Approximately 9,000 animals were culled, with some meat being returned to Traditional Owners for food. In 2019, 1500 animals were culled; and annual culls are planned to reduce the numbers of large feral animals such that their impacts are minimal (IUCN Consultation, 2020). A feral animal working group, made up of Kakadu Traditional Owners, has developed a set of feral animal management protocols to improve the management of feral animals in Kakadu. These protocols set out the ways in which feral animals are managed in Kakadu, including provisions for economic opportunities for Bininj/Mungguy. Invasive animals in the World Heritage site include Asian water (swamp) buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), cattle (Bos indicus & B. taurus), pigs (Sus scrofa), horses (Equus caballus), donkeys (Equus asinus), cats (Felis catus), dogs (Canis familiaris), rats (Rattus rattus), mice (Mus musculus), house geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) and European bees (Apis mellifera). Cane toads (Rhinella marina) spread to Kakadu (from an Australian introduction in north-eastern Queensland), arriving at the site for the first time in early 2001, and subsequently became established across the site in very large numbers. Their establishment has caused severe declines in Kakadu and elsewhere of many native predators (because of the toad's toxin), including northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), Mitchell's water monitor (Varanus mitchelli), Merten's water monitor (Varanus mertensi), plains death adder (Acanthophis hawkei) (Doody et al. 2009, 2015; Phillips et al. 2010; Woinarski & Winderlich 2014). Although populations of toad-vulnerable predators are persisting in the park, there is currently no evidence that any populations of these toad-susceptible native species have begun to recover from the imapcts of cane toads; and those three reptile species are now listed by the IUCN as threatened because of this severe decline and Mitchell's water monitors are listed as Critically endangered (Shea et al., 2018) and Merten's water monitors are listed as Endangered (Shea et al., 2018).  For at least some invasive introduced animal species, there has been no substantial and enduring reduction in population sizes and distributional extent (and hence impact) in the site over recent decades. Some introduced pest species (such as feral cats) probably occur ubiquitously across the site, other than on the small offshore islands. Predation by feral cats, operating interactively with the effects of extensive fires on habitat conditions, is a significant threatening process (Department of the Environment 2015; Ziembicki et al., 2015; Stokeld et al. 2018; Murphy et al. 2019), contributing to the decline of many of the site's native mammals, including the probable recent extirpations from the site of some native mammal species such as brush-tailed rabbit-rat (Conilurus penicillatus). The National Park is undertaking a trial of different methods for feral cat management, but management has not yet resulted in any sustained reduction in this major threat. Feral pigs are now widespread across the site. Their impacts are diverse. They forage extensively on the corms of sedges (primarily Eleocharis dulcis), competing directly with waterbirds such as magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) and brolgas (Antigone rubicunda), for which this is a key food resource (Bayliss et al., 2006, Pettit et al. 2011). But pigs are also major predators of (and a significant threat to) aestivating freshwater turtles (Fordham et al. 2006, 2007), many native yams and ground-nesting birds. A new study (Stobo-Wilson et al., 2020) indicates that the impact of feral herbivores — such as buffaloes, horses, cattle and donkeys — on habitat and native species has been largely underestimated.
Very High Threat
The impacts of climate change will progressively magnify. The most critical impact for World Heritage values is the ongoing increase in extent of saltwater intrusion to the Park's diverse and productive wetland and coastal floodplain systems. Climate change may also increase  fire frequency and intensity. New or increased populations of alien species including pathogens and disease, again compounded by climate change, are another risk.
Other
(Introduction of disease or pathogens)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Unlike many other World Heritage sites in Australia, specific diseases have not been signalled as affecting biodiversity in the park. However, the potential for novel diseases or pathogens to enter the park remains and accordingly the park has risk preparedness plans in place (DNP, 2007). The park works closely with government biosecurity officers who conduct tests of feral pigs and other species annually. One particular concern is the pathogen, myrtle rust Austropuccinia psidii, which was inadvertently introduced recently to Australia and has since spread widely including to areas near Kakadu (Pegg et al., 2018): it can cause severe impacts on many myrtaceous plants, with significant potential impacts in Kakadu on endemic plants, plants of cultural significance, including 'bush tucker' species, and plants that are major components of many vegetation communities.
Temperature extremes, Storms/Flooding
(Climate change)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The impacts of climate change will progressively magnify. The most critical impact for World Heritage values is the ongoing increase in extent of saltwater intrusion to the Park's diverse and productive lowland aquatic systems. Recent studies indicate that extensive areas of Kakadu’s floodplains and wetlands are highly likely to be inundated in coming decades (Asbridge &amp; Lucas, 2016; Pettit et al., 2018; Dutra et al., 2018; Bayliss et al., 2018a). A tidally-driven hydrodynamic model was developed to simulate the frequency and extent of salt water intrusion (SWI) in the Kakadu Region (Bayliss et al., 2018a). The model scenarios were used to assess potential loss of freshwater floodplains from climate model predictions of sea level rise and subsequent SWI. Results predict that by 2030 3% of the floodplain will be impacted by SWI and 42% by 2070. Results suggest that all floodplains on Kakadu will be impacted by SWI by 2132 (Bayliss et al., 2018a). The extent of saltwater inundation during the simulation period (2013–2100) was greater for coastal floodplains closer to the coast, reflecting tidal influence. Freshwater refuge areas will likely be created. By 2100 and beyond Kakadu is predicted to become a ‘no-analogue’ environment, and that creation of novel ecosystem states will render traditional management restoration and intervention goals unachievable. Catford et al (2013) provides a conceptual model of potential impacts on Kakadu floodplain flora and fauna. This highlights the need to consider freshwater refugia in good condition now and well into the future, even if they will eventually be lost to SWI. Given the potential benefits to the survival of iconic freshwater species, such an investment is considered an opportunity cost rather than a sunk cost (Bayliss et al., 2018).
 
The current and future threat environment for this site is complex and of severe concern. Many threats (such as fire and introduced invasive animals) operate across the entire extent of the site. Some management efforts have resulted in at least intermittent reduction in the impacts of fire, and positive results over the period 2016-2018 were some of the best in the history of the park. Some of the invasive species are of particular concern. The establishment of cane toads has caused severe declines in Kakadu and elsewhere of many native predators. Feral cats remain uncontrolled across almost all of the park, and impacts of pigs and some weeds continue. Some of these factors interact resulting in compounding impacts The most drastic decline in biodiversity occurred in the period 1995-2005 and research results, including 2019, show species richness and abundance have not really changed since then. Climate change is already having detrimental impacts on the site's values, mostly through nascent saltwater intrusion. These impacts will increase in severity and consequences over coming decades, with marked detriment to the site's biodiversity and cultural values. The focus of park management is on reducing the impact of invasive species and fire to improve habitat condition and resilience in the face of increasing threats.
Management system
Mostly Effective
The park is guided by the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2016-2026. Other significant management documents: Tourism Master Plan, District and Stone Country fire management plans, Crocodile Management Strategy, Feral Animal Management Strategy; Gunlom Mine Sites Rehabilitation Strategy, Threatened Species Strategy, Cultural Heritage Strategy, Weed Management Strategy, Climate Change Strategy, and Waste Management Strategy (DNP, 2012). As noted in the Kakadu National Park Management Plan 2016 - 2026, some management strategies are being revised or under development, in line with best practice adaptive land management.
 
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
Management effectiveness can be measured by trends for native species and threatening processes (Parr et al., 2009). The Park has an extensive network of monitoring sites (and ongoing assessment through satellite imagery) that can help monitor fire and its impacts (Russell-Smith et al. 2014). Ambitious outcome targets and performance measures for fire management have been proposed in the scientific literature (Russell-Smith et al. 2017); however, the most recent available reporting of this management (for 2019) indicates that performance for environmental outcomes was only 'poor' or 'fair' (Kakadu National Park Program report 2019 - fire). However, this occurred in the context of improvements in the past 10 years overall and some of the best fire management results in the history of the park in 2016-2018. Monitoring includes threatened flora and fauna with species such as marine turtles, river sharks, the yellow chat and small mammals all subject to long term programs. .A revised ecological monitoring framework is being trialled under the National Environmental Science Programme. Findings will evaluate this monitoring framework’s effectiveness in detecting and reporting trends in terrestrial vertebrates and habitat condition. The monitoring will also inform Park managers on the effectiveness of management actions to address threats to biodiversity including feral cats, other introduced species and fire regimes (see https://www.nespnorthern.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Monitoring-terrestrial-animals-in-Kakadu-start-up-factsheet.pdf). However, monitoring has demonstrated marked decline for many native mammal species, most drastically over the period 1995-2005. Some threatened reptile species are suspected to be in decline, and monitoring of Oenpelli python (Gillespie et al., 2020), marine turtles (Groom, 2017) and Varanus panoptes is being undertaken.
Boundaries
Mostly Effective
Delineation of the site includes some straight-line boundaries, and other parts of the boundary defined by rivers: the Wildman River rises within the Park and its eastern bank defines part of the north west boundary; the north eastern boundary is defined by the East Alligator River; in the south west, part of the Mary River defines the boundary.

The South Alligator River drainage basin is almost entirely contained within the park (with a small part of one tributary in the neighbouring Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area).

Some collaborative research, monitoring and management with managers of the Indigenous Protected Areas (Djelk and Warddeken) to the east of the site, and with Nitmiluk National Park in the south-west help extend the conservation management impact and effectiveness beyond the tenure of the site alone (e.g., Russell-Smith et al. 2014).

The inclusion in 2011 into the World Heritage site of one of the three mineral leases (enclaves) that pre-date the establishment of the park (Koongarra), and preventing mining in this site, is extremely positive (IUCN, 2011).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Highly Effective
The Director of National Park’s Annual Reports show there is good integration into regional and national planning systems (e.g., DNP, 2017, 2019).
 
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
The joint management arrangements between the Traditional Aboriginal Owners and park management has, in the past, been highlighted as exemplary, “a model of effective park management” (IUCN, 1992). The park’s traditional owners constitute a majority of Board members (World Heritage Committee, 2013). However, the governance structure for joint management was established in the 1980s and is overdue for review (IUCN Consultation, 2020b). Challenges remain to increase the level of Indigenous employment and training, noting that annual fire reports from 2019 show that this season saw the most traditional owner employment in fire management in the history of the park. A Joint Management Unit purposed to better address these concerns and challenges was established in 2018 (IUCN Consultation, 2020a).
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
The World Heritage site is well protected by federal legislation, although co-management with the Traditional Aboriginal Owners, which is an essential aspect of the management system, remains challenged (IUCN Consultation, 2020b). This and other substantive deficiencies were addressed in a 2019 report by the Australian National Audit Office on the management of Commonwealth National Parks (https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/management-commonwealth-national-parks). The Director of National Parks performs functions and exercises powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in accordance with the park’s management plan and relevant decisions of the Kakadu National Park Board of Management. These arrangements ensure that the park has effective legal protection, a sound planning framework and that management issues are addressed (World Heritage Committee, 2013). Other national legislation relevant to the management of Kakadu National Park includes: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984; Native Title Act 1993; Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; and Jabiru Town Development Authority Act 1978 (UNESCO, 2003).

The EPBC Act (at s. 269 (1)) obliges the Commonwealth to implement national recovery plans for threatened species and ecological communities and recovery plans in Commonwealth areas (including Kakadu National Park).
 
Law enforcement
Mostly Effective
Enforcement of the relevant laws and regulations is mostly effective, although challenges remain with respect to feral animal management, including unauthorised hunting of feral pigs and buffalo within the park (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Mostly Effective
Since the State Party report of 2003, there has been a gradual move to greater implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations. The decision by the Traditional Owner, Jeffery Lee, State Party and managers to integrate the 1,228 ha enclave known as the Koongarra Project Area into the World Heritage site in 2011 is exemplary (IUCN, 2011).
Sustainable use
Highly Effective
Limited sustainable use, including hunting (with lead shot banned), is allowed within the park for Traditional Aboriginal Owners. A Cultural Heritage Strategy, after stakeholder consultations, was implemented in 2012 (DNP, 2012).
Sustainable finance
Highly Effective
Funds are provided each financial year for the park from the Commonwealth Government for the management of the Park and to fulfil the terms and conditions of the Lease and the Plan of Management. In the 2016-17 financial year, the Australian Government made an allocation of approximately A$19 million specifically for Kakadu National Park operations and capital works. Lease payments – including rental and a share of revenue generated from Park use fees and charges – are made to the Northern Land Council on behalf of the Land Trusts.
In 2016-17, 39% of revenue generated through park passes and permits was distributed to traditional owners directly (A$1.8 million).
In the 2018-19 financial year, the total operation expenses of Kakadu were A$18.7 million (https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0ad1262f-5652-4a98-871b-0bc6605a6dc2/files/dnp-annual-report-2018-19.pdf).
Tourism revenue contributes to the park's total budget. In 2020, this contribution will be substantially less, as constraints on international and national travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic will markedly reduce tourist visitation. Early in 2020 the Australian Government suspended park entry fees & made a commitment to provide the equivalent funding to the park (IUCN Consultation, 2020d).
Director of National Parks Annual Reports are available at https://www.environment.gov.au/topics/national-parks/parks-australia/publications.
 
Staff capacity, training, and development
Mostly Effective
Developing staff through formal and informal training programmes is undertaken, although periodically this is considered a “major challenge” (e.g., DNP, 2012).
Education and interpretation programs
Highly Effective
There are numerous publications providing educational information on the values of Kakadu National Park, including guidebooks, Park Notes, maps, information pamphlets, website (http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/kakadu/index.html).
Tourism and visitation management
Highly Effective
Interpretive programs, guided walks and cultural activities with traditional owners at selected sites (SOC, 2003), with increasing development and success of Indigenous-owned operations. About 200,000 tourists visited the park in 2018 (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-25/kakadu-national-park-data-best-visitation-in-decade/10750000).

With the closure of the Ranger mine in 2021, the future of the site's main town, Jabiru, is somewhat unsettled. In January 2019, the Australian Government announced that it will invest A$216 million to upgrade Kakadu National Park and help the township of Jabiru (within the Park) transition to a tourism-based economy. The initiative includes: up to A$70 million to upgrade roads to improve access to the park; A$51 million for tourism infrastructure and attractions, including upgrades to camp grounds, walking tracks and viewing platforms, improved signage, mobile and WiFi services; up to A$60 million to support a world-class, Indigenous-led World Heritage Kakadu Visitor Centre in Jabiru; and A$35 million to support remediation of Jabiru.
 
Monitoring
Some Concern
There is a substantial long-running monitoring program reporting on parameters of fire, and on trends in many plants and animals (Russell-Smith et al. 2014; Einoder et al., 2018), with the most recent round of major fauna monitoring completed in 2019. Unfortunately, the future of such monitoring is uncertain (IUCN Consultation, 2020c). There is also some ongoing monitoring of some invasive species and some threatened species, and of climate change and tourism. A new project was implemented in 2020 to investigate cat abundance in two areas in the park and provide a baseline for evaluating effectiveness of future management activities. A current research project is trialling the use of Indigenous indicators of “healthy country” based on Traditional Owner’s knowledge and data collected using remote sensing. However, there are also some gaps in monitoring, including of many threatened species (Woinarski and Winderlich, 2014) and floodplain assets and threats (Bayliss et al., 2018). There is no monitoring program in place to detect impacts of and support sea level rise modelling efforts. Bayliss et al. (2018) proposed the establishment of a network of inexpensive tidal gauges with water depth recorders on all major rivers and floodplains to increase the reliability of hydrodynamic models used to simulate future SLR impacts as better global and regional SLR predictions become available.
Research
Mostly Effective
There has been a long history of environmental and other research in Kakadu, particularly in relation to fire (e.g. Andersen et al. 2003; Russell-Smith et al. 2009), weed and floodplain management and with many co-designed research projects implemented, particularly through the Australian Government supported Commonwealth Environmental Research Facilities, National Environmental Research Program and National Environmental Science Program (see TRaCK, NERP and NESP pages at https://www.nespnorthern.edu.au). With the support of NESP, the Kakadu Indigenous Research Committee was established in 2018 and is producing a set of Indigenous research priorities. There have been notable examples of focused research forums at which research knowledge has been exchanged among land-holders, managers, and other groups (e.g., Walden and Nou, 2008; Atkins and Winderlich, 2010). Numerous permits for research in the park are granted each year.
Conservation management in Kakadu involves dedicated planning with appropriate involvement and control by the Park's Traditional Owners. There is substantial investment in management of some threats, including fire and weeds. However, some threats (such as feral cats, cane toads, and saltwater intrusion) remain largely uncontrolled because they are intractable, beyond local control or effective responses are not yet formulated. Furthermore, fire management remains challenging. As a consequence of the limited control of at least some threats, important components of biodiversity have to date shown no recovery from previous decline.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Mostly Effective
The Ranger uranium mine, enclaved within the park, will stop processing in January 2021. This poses an opportunity and challenge to rehabilitate the mine site back to a condition equivalent to adjoining areas. The responsibility for rehabilitating the area to an appropriate condition lies with the lease holder – Energy Resources of Australia and its parent company, Rio Tinto, with specific legislative stipulation and conditions for restoration, and oversight by Australia’s Supervising Scientist. There is some coordination in management, monitoring and research with conservation reserves bordering the site, including Warddeken and Djelk Indigenous Protected Areas and Nitmiluk National Park, and collaboration with the Njanjma Rangers on weed research and management within Kakadu. S such coordination has resulted in increases in efficiency and effectiveness of some wide-ranging threats (e.g., Russell-Smith et al. 2009). Pastoral properties adjoining the Park's western are sources of some weed species such as non-native pasture grasses.
Best practice examples
The promotion of economic opportunities for Traditional Owners through commercial or contracted management of fire (DNP, 2016b), now supported by the Australian government's Carbon Farming Initiative, is a significant positive outcome.
 
World Heritage values

Great natural beauty and sweeping landscapes

Low Concern
Trend
Stable
The existence of mining leases in enclaves of the site has been of concern, and has had at least localised impacts on this value. However, one of the three enclaves, Koongarra Project Area (1,228 ha) was incorporated into the World Heritag site in 2011 (IUCN, 2011) and will not now be mined. The only active mine, Ranger, has ceased mining and will complete milling of its stockpile in 2021; thereafter it is obliged to restore the disturbed area using local native plant species similar in density and abundance to those existing in adjacent areas of Kakadu National Park. Furthermore, no further expansion of the town of Jabiru is foreseeable. The fires (characterise the site for much of the dry season, potentially reducing visitors' perception of 'great natural beauty'. The ongoing and likely accelerating saltwater intrusion will reduce the diversity and productivity of lowland wetland systems (Stephenson et al., 2018), and the spectacular congregations of waterfowl supported by them.
 

Vast congregations of waterbirds

High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
The whole site is a designated Ramsar site and the Alligator Rivers Floodplain is a designated Important Bird Area, with estimates (mostly from the 1980s and 1990s) of some 5 million waterbirds using the area (Birdlife International, 2009). These birds are most likely in decline globally. For example, the Birdlife estimate of 300,000 little curlews (Numenius minutus) at the site likely exceeds the current total global population estimate for this species (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22693165/93388294#population), and the global population sizes of many other migratory shorebirds present at the site are undergoing continuing decline (Garnett et al. 2011). The habitat on which the waterbirds depend is also subject to current, and escalating future, impacts due to saltwater intrusion, affecting the  critical food resources such as Eleocharis dulcis (water chestnut) and Oryza meridionalis (wild rice), for the most abundant waterbird, magpie goose and its critical food resources are also being depleted by feral pigs (Bayliss et al., 2006, Pettit et al. 2011; Bayliss and Ligtermoet, 2018) and displaced by invasive grasses (e.g. Adams et al., 2018; Adams et al., 2015).

Large and relatively intact landscape allowing continued evolutionary processes

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The value 'relatively intact landscape' is challenged by the loss, and ongoing decline, of some of the Park's native species, especially mammals, over recent decades (Woinarski and Winderlich 2014). It is not clear yet the extent to which such declines compromise the site's continuing evolutionary processes. The value of 'relatively intact landscape' is also effected by declines over recent decades in some of the site's key habitats including Allosyncarpia rainforests and sandstone heathlands, and threatened by therisks that saltwater intrusion poses to lowland wetlands (Bayliss et al., 2018). The occurrence within the site of almost the entire catchment of a large tropical river system (the South Alligator River), and the extraordinary diverse landscapes it passes through, remains the key component of the 'large and relatively intact landscape allowing continued evolutionary processes' value.

Conservation of significant habitats

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Since inscription, early assessments have reported that the majority of the World Heritage site to be in good shape. However, ongoing saltwater intrusion is leading to change in some wetland environments (Stephenson et al., 2018), and the rate and extent of such change is likely to escalate (Pettit et al., 2018). Decline in many fire-sensitive plant species in the sandstone plateau area (Russell-Smith et al., 2017) - a key habitat for many of the site's endemic and relict species (Woinarski et al., 2009) - led (in 2011) to national recognition  of the Arnhem Land Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex as a threatened ecological community. The distinctive rainforests of the sandstone plateau and escarpment, dominated by the endemic tree anbinik (Allosyncarpia ternata), have undergone a retreat, with this decline considered to be driven by prevailing fire regimes (Freeman et al. 2017). Late dry season fires have also been shown to negatively impact the riparian vegetation along intermittent streams in the lowland woodlands (Douglas et al., 2015) However, larger areas of unburnt habitat are being retained through the strategic use of fire. This involves the use of patch burning which creates a temporal and spatial mosaic of small burnt areas that protect larger areas of unburnt habitat. A research project is beginning (2020) to monitor the health of the ecosystem (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). Fire performance thresholds affecting the extensive lowland woodland habitat were shown not to have improved in the decadal assessment conducted by Russell-Smith et al. (2017); however the intensive strategic program being implemented since 2016 aims to address this and has shown some positive results over the past five years.
 

Threatened, endemic and relict plants

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
Declines in many fire-sensitive plant species, especially in the sandstone plateau area (Russell-Smith et al. 2002; Russell-Smith 2006), have been reported, but some subsequent improvements in fire management in the plateau areas (Murphy et al. 2015) may have halted such declines. Surveys of a number of threatened species were conducted in 2015 and are awaiting reports documenting results. Further surveys were planned in 2020 (IUCN Consultation, 2020d).

Threatened, endemic and relict mammals

Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
There has been a severe decline of the native terrestrial mammal fauna in the World Heritage site, including of threatened, endemic and relict species (Woinarski et al., 2001; 2010; Ibbett et al., 2018). The decline of most of these species in Kakadu post-dates the site's inscription as a World Heritage site and are evident across Northern Australia. Many formerly widespread and abundant mammal species have declined to such an extent that they are now recognised nationally and globally as threatened. Some species have probably been extirpated from the site over recent decades: most likely, these include brush-tailed rabbit-rat (Conilurus penicillatus), golden-backed tree-rat (Mesembriomys macrurus), northern brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale pirata) and nabarlek (Petrogale concinna). Others, such as northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), have persisted in much reduced populations. An extensive monitoring program reported that the abundance and richness of native mammal species at sampled plots across the site declined by 71% and 54% respectively over the period 1996 to 2009, and the number of sampled plots that had no native mammals increased from 13% to 55% over that period (Woinarski et al., 2010). The most drastic declines occurred in the period 1995-2005 and research results, including from 2019, show species richness and abundance have not changed since then (IUCN Consultation, 2020d). Populations of many formerly abundant mammal species are now so low that the long-established monitoring program is inadequate to detect them sufficiently and has been redesigned to address this (Einoder et al 2018, and fact sheet here https://www.nespnorthern.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Monitoring-terrestrial-animals-in-Kakadu-start-up-factsheet.pdf). There has been no reintroduction of any of the site's extirpated mammal species, although a largely unsuccessful attempt to bolster the small remnant population of northern quolls was made recently (Jolly et al. 2018ab). t Based on recent research,here is likely to be limited ongoing decline among many of the remaining mammal species. The factors that are most likely to have caused (and continue to cause) the decline are fire regimes (notably with the need of many mammal species for a higher proportion of long-unburnt vegetation), damage to habitat by feral herbivores and predation by feral cats (Woinarski et al., 2010, 2011; Ziembicki et al., 2015), with cane toads causing much of the decline for northern quoll.

Threatened, endemic and relict birds

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Population trends for most of the site's threatened, endemic and relict birds are not substantially documented. A monitoring program for terrestrial birds reported no overall decline in bird species richness or abundance over the period 1996 to 2009 (Woinarski et al. 2012), although indicated some declines for two threatened species, the partridge pigeon (Geophaps smithii) and white-throated grass-wren (Amytornis woodwardi). Two specific surveys for the largely endemic Alligator Rivers yellow chat (Epthianura crocea tunneyi) have indicated ongoing decline (Kyne and Jackson, 2016). The most recent scorecard from 2018 confirms ongoing decline and notes that the population is now only about 100 individuals (National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Research Hub, 2019). Broad-scale surveys of waterbirds have indicated no consistent trends in abundance, with marked fluctuations among years for the most abundant species, the magpie goose (Bayliss et al., 2018; Clancy, 2019). However, saltwater intrusion is likely to lead to ongoing reduction in habitat suitability for many waterbirds in the site. Populations of migratory shorebirds utilising coastal habitat are likely to be declining due to habitat reduction in critical areas outside the site.

Threatened, endemic and relict frogs

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
There are no reports of chytrid fungus affecting frogs in the World Heritage site, although the invasion of cane toads, which can predate or compete with other smaller species of frogs, may have reduced the population size of some native frog species.  Other possible threats include saltwater intrusion (leading to reduced habitat quality for frogs in lowland wetlands), feral pigs (through direct predation of burrowing frogs and habitat degradation), water buffalo (habitat degradation), and inappropriate fire regimes (leading to habitat degradation - e.g. through decline in riparian vegetation).

Threatened and endemic reptiles

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Some snake and lizard species are declining in the site (IUCN Consultation, 2017). Populations of formerly abundant monitors (notably Mitchell's water monitor Varanus mitchellii, Merten's water monitor V. mertensi and floodplain monitor V. panoptes) and of some snakes (such as plains death adder Acanthophis hawkei) declined catastrophically and rapidly following the arrival in the site of cane toads around 2001; and these populations have not recovered to pre-toad levels. One reptile species endemic to the site (or nearly so), the Arnhem Land skink (Bellatorius obiri), has declined from locally abundant to almost extinct and is now listed as Critically Endangered (Chapple et al., 2019), with no targeted conservation management response. The near-endemic Oenpelli python (Narawan oenpelliensis) is likely to be undergoing continuing decline (Gillespie et al., 2020), probably because of decline in native mammal prey species and unfavourable fire regimes. Radio-tracking studies have shown that feral cats kill a high proportion of some reptile species, including arboreal varanids (Sweet 2007); and there is no effective control of feral cats across the site. The near-endemic yellow-snouted gecko (Lucasium occultum) is endangered, with the main threat probably unfavourable fire regimes; and it has no targeted conservation management program (Chapple et al., 2019). The recently discovered and near-endemic Arnhem phasmid gecko (Strophurus horneri) is considered vulnerable: it is associated with long-unburnt spinifex patches in sandstone environments and is threatened mostly by a fire regime of too frequent fire (Chapple et al., 2019). There is no existing monitoring program (or at least no publicly reported trend information) for the pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) at the site.

Threatened, endemic and relict fish

Good
Trend
Stable
No changes in native fish diversity and abundance have been reported; and although monitoring programs are limited for some species, there is no evidence of sustained decline of threatened fish species at the site (Kyne 2014). Ongoing habitat change through saltwater intrusion is likely to affect some of the site's fish species with saltwater intrusion to coastal floodplains being identified as the major process that will alter assemblage dynamics and system energy flow (Humphrey et al., 2018).

Threatened and endemic invertebrates

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
There is insufficient ongoing monitoring to estimate trends for most of the site's threatened and endemic invertebrate species (Woinarski and Winderlich 2014).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Despite the large size and management of some threats in the World Heritage site, a significant decline in many species of small mammals and reptiles, and some birds (and probably some plants), has occurred since inscription, with extirpation from the site of some threatened species. Many species continue to be at risk of decline. Although a conservation strategy for the Park's threatened species exists, for many threatened and endemic species there is no specific targeted management actions. However, research shows improvements in fire management in stone country (Murphy et al 2015). Research has also established that enhancing or recovering habitat condition via fire management and feral herbivore culls are most effective management response (Stobo-Wilson et al., 2020). The ongoing loss of the site's biodiversity has been assessed as of high concern in previous assessments and many threatened (and non-threatened) species continue to decline, and associated World Heritage values have continued to decline.

Additional information

Direct employment,
Tourism-related income,
Provision of jobs
Important source of revenue and jobs, especially to the site's Traditional owners
Collection of medicinal resources for local use,
Outdoor recreation and tourism,
Natural beauty and scenery
Kakadu National Park contributes tens of millions of dollars to the Northern Territory economy each year through tourism and purchase of significant quantities of goods and services from local suppliers. (DNP, 2007).

The site continues to provide for bush tucker and bush medicines used by Traditional Owners, whose personal and community health is linked to the health of the country.
Sacred natural sites or landscapes,
Cultural identity and sense of belonging
This site has been occupied for >60,000 years, and there are numerous places in the landscape connected to, and illustrating, that long occupation. Traditional Owners have a very strong sense of identification with this country, with that sense and understanding of place passed on across generations.
Importance for research
There has been a long history of outstanding environmental research, across many disciplines undertaken at the site. Traditional knowledge is deeply held, and provides a robust foundation for management.
Wilderness and iconic features
Conservation of sacred sites and historical Aboriginal sites
Carbon sequestration,
Coastal protection,
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality)
The site provides outstanding environmental services, including water purity and catchment, soil stabilisation and coastal protection, over a vast area. Effective management of fire across the site can help constrain carbon emissions.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Legal subsistence hunting of wild game,
Collection of wild plants and mushrooms,
Fishing areas and conservation of fish stocks
Traditional food is harvested from ∼25% of the total floodplain area (Adams et al., 2018).
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Low
Trend - Increasing
Invasive species
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Interviews conducted by Adams et al. (2018) revealed that reduced visitations to areas that were used in the past but no longer used by Indigenous land-owners for hunting and gathering, are due to weed infestation and saltwater inundation. 
Due to the large size of Kakadu National Park and the fact that it is owned by Indigenous people who still have traditional land use rights, the park is of primary benefit to the people who live within and near its borders. It provides significant benefits to the wider Australian and global community. In addition to nature conservation and conserving cultural values, the site provides a wide range of ecosystem services, furnishes a wealth of scientific knowledge and provides jobs through park management, tourism, research and education.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Kakadu NP Kakadu National Park invasive plant monitoring and control. Includes: long-term annual monitoring of Mimosa pigra at 250 sites throughout the park and treatment of any plants found; biological control of salvinia using the salvinia weevil at key sites.
Annual Park Report (DNP, 2012).
2 Kakadu National Park Kakadu National Park feral vertebrate monitoring and control, including periodic aerial culling of feral herbivores (pigs, buffalo, cattle, horses, donkeys).
3 Kakadu National Park Fire management across the park, including implementation of Kakadu National Park Stone Country Fire Management Plan.

References

References
1
Adams, V.M. and Setterfield, S.A. (2013). Estimating the financial risks of Andropogon gayanus to greenhouse gas abatement projects in northern Australia. Environmental Research Letters, 8, e025018.
2
Adams, V.M., Setterfield, S.A., Douglas, M.M., Kennard, M.J. and Ferdinands, K. (2015). Measuring benefits of protected area management: trends across realms and research gaps for freshwater systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1681), p.20140274.
3
Adams, VM, Douglas, MM, Jackson, SE, Scheepers, K, Kool, JT, Setterfield, SA. Conserving biodiversity and Indigenous bush tucker: Practical application of the strategic foresight framework to invasive alien species management planning. Conservation Letters. 2018; 11: e12441. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12441.
4
Adams, VM, Douglas, MM, Jackson, SE, Scheepers, K, Kool, JT, Setterfield, SA. Conserving biodiversity and Indigenous bush tucker: Practical application of the strategic foresight framework to invasive alien species management planning. Conservation Letters. 2018; 11: e12441. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12441.
5
Adams, VM, Douglas, MM, Jackson, SE, Scheepers, K, Kool, JT, Setterfield, SA. Conserving biodiversity and Indigenous bush tucker: Practical application of the strategic foresight framework to invasive alien species management planning. Conservation Letters. 2018; 11: e12441. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12441 ;
6
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