Roadshow 1.4 GBA Explorer

GBA Explorer: an interactive visualisation tool to explore the assessments 

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Dr Kate Holland: Hi. I'm Kate Holland from CSIRO. I'm here to talk about the new tool we've developed to untangle the connections between what matters in the environment, the development activities that could cause impacts and where management and monitoring are critical. We developed GBA explorer to present the scientific evidence and logic that underpin the assessments in context instead of this long technical reports. It's important to remember that this is a regional assessment, and it doesn't replace site specific assessments required under state, territory or Commonwealth law. Before we get started on the details, I wanted to show a short animation to give you an overview of the tool.

Voiceover: To help industries, regulators and communities evaluate the impacts of unconventional gas resource development on water and the environment, the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program has developed the GBA Explorer. This fully interactive online tool uses causal networks to map the pathways between development activities and potential impacts. The tool provides access to four years' worth of detailed scientific studies that evaluate potential impacts and how to prevent them. Interactive maps show where more detailed studies are needed in a region. Users can explore how resource development activities lead to stressors, which affect natural processes and then endpoints, the values to be protected. GBA Explorer lets you analyse the pathways and how activities, stressors and processes could impact on endpoints.

These pathways reveal how resource development activities may impact on water resources and matters of environmental significance, such as Australia's threatened flora and fauna, groundwater and surface water. Colour coded links show whether an impact is possible, exceeds accepted thresholds and is therefore material, and whether it can be mitigated, avoided or is unavoidable.

The GBA Explorer, with its maps and evaluations, provides a shared understanding and starting point for site specific assessments that are required by Australian law. The tool will help governments, industries, land users and communities to make informed decisions and enable the management of potential risks from future development. It presents detailed findings of the geological and bioregional assessment program in a way that allows users to focus on matters of interest. As new data, knowledge and information become available, the tool can be updated, ensuring decision-makers have access to robust scientific information on the potential impacts of the unconventional gas industry. To find out more about the program and access the data and tools, visit

Dr Kate Holland: GBA explorer lets users visualise the entire causal network or simplify it by selecting specific pathways. Here's the front page with a short description and video, as well as an overview of how to use the site. For more information and to get you started using the causal networks, About GBA Explorer, the tile on the bottom right includes a short tour through a hypothetical causal network. To get started, we'll take a look at some causal pathways from development activities to endpoints, what matters in the environment. Then we use the network to look backwards from an endpoint to work out which causal pathways matter for that endpoint. Then we'll take a look at some of the scientific evidence that supports the evaluations. Finally, we'll take a quick look at what's in the assessment summary.

Just a quick reminder about the different node types in the causal networks. From the left, the driver in grey is what initiates the activities, activities in red are what's needed for development. Stressors in green are the physical, chemical or biological changes caused by activities. In yellow are the natural processes that could change an endpoint. Finally, in blue are the endpoints, the values to be protected. Pathways from left to right are the same as the traditional environmental risk assessment. What GBA explorer lets you do is visualise all of the pathways together, looking forwards or backwards and also highlight a single pathway for a more detailed look at the evaluations and scientific evidence.

We'll start by looking at all of the pathways from one of the activities, in this case, hydraulic fracturing in the causal network for the Cooper GBA region. Each node includes a description of what's included, the relevant literature and any modelling, as well as any knowledge gaps identified in the assessment. The maps tab has links to the impact maps for causal pathways from the node to each endpoint. The evaluations tab has links to evaluations for links into and out of the node. The references tab contains all of the references cited in the node description and link evaluations. So if we move to the causal network for the Beetaloo GBA region and choose an endpoint, in this case, the persistence of the Gouldian finch, the network shows all of the causal pathways from resource development to the endpoint. The endpoint includes the node description, relevant monitoring identified in the pathways to the endpoint, mitigation strategies and knowledge gaps for the endpoint.

There are also maps of the spatial extent to the endpoint and overall areas of concern for the endpoint. The tables include links to maps that let you explore different causal pathways in more detail. The references tab contains all of the references cited in the end point, looking at three of these maps in more detail, here are the results for causal pathways through accidental release to potential impacts on the persistence of Gouldian finch. The next map shows results for the causal pathways through overland flow obstruction and then through vegetation removal. So the spatial causal network accumulates these impacts into an overall map of areas of potential concern for all causal pathways to the persistence of Gouldian finch endpoint.

Going back to the causal network for the Cooper GBA region, we can delve into the scientific evidence in more detail. Starting in the Winton-Mackunda aquifer condition endpoint, we can see the endpoint description, which includes the monitoring, mitigation strategies and knowledge gaps. Then we've got the spatial extent for the endpoint. The next map shows the overall results for all causal pathways to the endpoint. Next, the table show the areas in each endpoint associated with pathways through each activity, stressor and process. Here, two stressors accidental release and groundwater extraction are of potential concern. Clicking on the link for groundwater extraction takes us to the network and map of potential impacts on Winton-Mackunda aquifer condition associated with groundwater extraction. After looking at the map of results, we can look at the modelling used to evaluate potential impacts associated with groundwater extraction under the Content tab.

The node description includes links to data sets and interactive maps. The first interactive map shows the saturated aquifer thickness. The next map shows the modelled groundwater drawdown. This modelling is used for the evaluation of the link from groundwater extraction to Winton-Mackunda aquifer drawdown. This is also shown spatially in the link evaluation map. Before we finish, I wanted to show you the assessment summary, where the assessment results are reported in a more traditional linear format. The About tab includes the introduction, about the region and method description. The assessment tab includes the overall results of the assessment and then detailed description of the results for each pathway through a stressor by level of concern. The monitoring tab includes monitoring objectives based on the assessment results, as well as knowledge gaps and limitations identified by the assessment. The Maps tab, links to key information maps, and to process and stressor heat maps showing number of processes or stressors of potential concern for each endpoint. Here's an example from the persistence of grey grasswren endpoint. Summary tables and references cited in the assessment summary are available on the next two tabs. In conclusion, GBA Explorer presents the scientific evidence and logic that underpin the assessments in context, instead of as long technical reports. Users can untangle the pathways, focus on what matters to them, look at interactions and explore the scientific evidence in detail. This includes the evaluations, potential impacts, material change definitions as well as the regulatory and management controls and monitoring objectives, all in the context of the structure of the causal network.

Before we finish, I'd like to acknowledge the contributions from our stakeholders in the regions, including traditional owners and members of the regional community, as well as government, industry, other land users and the technical peer review group. Last but not least, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the comprehensive scientific knowledge base that underpins the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program and is accessible through the causal networks for the Beetaloo and Cooper GBA regions, as well as from the Bioregional Assessments website and at Thank you.

Additional information

About the presenter 

Dr Kate Holland


Kate is a Principal Research Scientist with over 20 years of experience using multi-disciplinary investigations to support policy makers, industry and regulators. She was the CSIRO project leader for the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program. 

Last updated:
15 November 2021