THE true state of Australia’s vanishing ecosystems has been revealed in a new report by WWF-Australia.
The Australian Government lists just 66 ecological communities as threatened.
But WWF’s Changing Land Use to Save Australian Wildlife report finds that 2764 Australian ecosystems could be considered threatened under new criteria established by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The report uses 40 years of satellite imagery, land use mapping and other databases to assess changes to the Australian landscape and effects on native wildlife and ecosystems.
It is the first time the impact of land uses on natural ecosystems has been assessed at a national scale using the recently developed IUCN Red List criteria.
“Land clearing for agriculture has been the single biggest driver of change in the Australian landscape, followed by ecosystem degradation from grazing, soil erosion, pollution and exotic pests and weeds,” the report’s author, WWF-Australia’s Dr Martin Taylor, said.
“Restrictions have seen land clearing greatly reduced in recent years but these laws are now being wound back or questioned in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales with dangerous implications for Aussie wildlife.”
The report shows the greatest increase in threatened ecosystems since 1972 occurred in Western Australia’s southwest and Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef catchment area.
Southwest Australia is a globally recognised biodiversity hotspot, with more species of plants and animals than just about anywhere else on the planet, while the Great Barrier Reef catchment directly impacts on the health of the World Heritage reef and the millions of livelihoods that depend on it.
While the report shows how land clearing mostly for livestock production has impacted on Australian wildlife and ecosystems, Dr Taylor said it was not about blaming farmers.
“Australia’s economy and our way of life have benefited greatly from agriculture and we all depend on the food and fibre that farmers produce,’ he said.
“The loss of ecosystems and species is an unforeseen and unintended result of agricultural expansion, and in some cases government policy has encouraged land clearing.
“This report is not concerned with assigning blame but rather with finding ways that threatened wildlife and ecosystems can be protected and recovered while still maintaining agricultural and economic prosperity.”
The report recommends that governments play a greater role in preventing further species losses and promoting recovery of threatened ecosystems through:
· Appropriate vegetation and biodiversity laws;
· Protected areas to conserve and recover threatened ecosystems and species;
· Support for certified sustainable agriculture throughout Australia; and
· Tangible incentives for landholders to protect high conservation value habitats.
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities 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 experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.