Nature parks grow but many threatened species still in the cold

MORE than a hundred Aussie species on the brink of extinction remain unprotected despite a major recent growth spurt for nature parks, according to a new report.

WWF-Australia will launch its Building Nature’s Safety Net report at the World Parks Congress in Sydney today.

The report shows that the amount of protected areas in Australia has grown significantly since 2002 but important habitats for 138 threatened species still fall outside the safety net.

“A boost in funding over the past five years has seen tremendous progress in the expansion of Australia’s National Reserve System, growth that will make a huge difference to survival of native wildlife in the years to come,” said the report’s author, Dr Martin Taylor.

“Unfortunately, we are still far from protecting the full range of Australian ecosystems, and there are still many threatened species whose habitats remain outside the safety net.”

WWF applauds the progress made by states, including New South Wales, which increased its highly protected land areas from 6.6 per cent of the state in 2002 to 9.2 per cent in 2012, and its marine protected areas from 2.5 per cent to 8.8 per cent.

But of Australia’s 1,613 threatened species, habitats for 138 remain unprotected, and of Australia’s 5,815 land-based ecosystems, 1,655 remain unprotected, the report reveals.

Critically endangered Australian species in need of greater habitat protection include:

· The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, the world’s largest burrowing herbivore, which has been reduced to just 126 individuals in the wild;
· The Dawson Yellow Chat, a saltmarsh and coastal grassland songbird that was once widespread along the central Queensland coast but has been reduced to just 200 birds in three populations;
· The Northern Serrate Dryandra, a critically endangered heath plant of the Geraldton Sandplains in Western Australia, which now occurs in just 16 populations in three locations;
· The Green Sawfish, an ancient and unusual relative of the shark, once found in waters as far south as New South Wales but now only occurs in estuaries north of Cairns.

Under the international Convention on Biological Diversity, Australia has committed to bringing at least 17 per cent of its terrestrial and at least 10 per cent of marine areas into ecologically representative, well-connected systems of protected areas by 2020.

With recent Indigenous Protected Area and Marine Reserve additions, the National Reserve System covers about 17 per cent of Australia’s land area and over one third of the marine area. However, the coverage is very uneven.

This means Australia has more work to do to meet the target, which WWF estimates will take at least another 25 million hectares of land added over the next five years at a cost of $170 million a year from the Australian Government.

Source: WWF-Australia
Image Source: Major Mitchell’s cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri).
© Molly Grace Photography

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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