Home/Australia’s land and animals are being decimated in a frightening new study on environmental degradation.
July 12, 2022

Australia’s land and animals are being decimated in a frightening new study on environmental degradation.

 

As ecosystems begin to break down as a result of climate change and habitat loss, the number of vulnerable species is growing.

Climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and mining have all contributed to the deterioration of Australia’s environment during the last five years, according to a government study warning that nature holds the key to human well-being and survival.

Despite the fact that scientists completed their review last year, the Morrison government delayed the release of the report until after the federal election. The report found that some Australian ecosystems had undergone abrupt changes over the previous five years, with at least 19 now showing signs of collapse or near collapse.

There was a shortage of financing allocated to the environment, as well as a lack of cooperation among jurisdictions, to appropriately address the cumulative impact of the risks, according to the research.

A decade of government delay and intentional ignorance is documented in the “shocking” five-year study that will be released on Tuesday by Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek at the National Press Club speech.

“I won’t be burying my head in the sand,” she added, adding that she would not be ignoring the situation. “The environment is back on the list of priorities under Labor.”

There is now concern that environmental deterioration might lead to “society breakdowns with long-lasting and catastrophic effects,” according to the World Economic Forum, which was cited in the paper.

 

The report’s most important findings

Between 2011 and 2016, an additional 175 animal and plant species were added to the list of vulnerable species of national environmental concern, making a total of 202 species now on the list. In the last decade, new species have been discovered and described at a far slower pace. There are still many more species to be discovered than have already been identified.

Despite the fact that a government endangered species plan has improved the trajectory of 21 species, many others did not. As the effect of the devastating 2019–20 bushfires – which killed or relocated between 1 billion and 3 billion animals – became obvious, the list of vulnerable species will grow significantly in the following years.

There have been fewer mammal species in Australia than on any other continent, and this country’s population loss is among the greatest in the industrialized world. More than a hundred Australian species have been declared extinct or extinct in the wild, according to official records. Introduced species and habitat degradation and clearance were the primary causes of extinction.

Grazing currently covers about half of the nation, although forestry and cropland usage has risen as well. Over 6.1 million hectares (more than six times the area of suburban Melbourne) of main natural forest has been cut since 1990. Nearly 290,000 hectares of primary forest and 343,000 hectares of regrown forest have been destroyed in the five years leading up to 2019.

In terms of plant diversity, there are more non-native species in Australia than native ones. Many billions of dollars have been spent in recent decades trying to control invasive animals, illnesses, and parasites that have been imported.

2019 saw record low water levels in the Murray-Darling Basin owing to water exploitation and drought. In the last 150 years, native fish populations have plummeted by more than 90 percent, a trend that looks to be continuing in most rivers and catchments.

Coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef has been exacerbated by marine heatwaves in 2016, 2017, and 2020. Prior to the major bleaching that occurred in March of this year, the report was completed. Juvenile corals are in danger of extinction due to ocean acidification induced by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As a result, reefs and the species that depend on them were in bad health throughout the nation. There has been a dramatic decline in the abundance of kelp in the south-east of the nation due to the effects of increasing water temperatures.

In metropolitan regions, waterways, beaches, and shorelines are often in bad shape; yet, in more rural areas, they are generally in decent condition. With 86% of populations not categorized as overfished, the larger marine ecosystem is in better health than the terrestrial environment.

Many low-lying places, such as the Kakadu wetlands, have been impacted by sea level rise. Mangroves are taking over saltmarshes throughout most of Australia’s coast.

Changing land use has led to the third highest cumulative loss of soil organic carbon in the world, after China and the United States, which has significant consequences for the global climate issue.

Despite the protests of traditional owners, the destruction of Indigenous cultural assets continues at an alarming pace. Indigenous protected areas make up about half of the national reserve system, yet indigenous people lack the financial and other assistance they need to effectively manage their land.

Compared to other industrialized cities throughout the world, most major Australian cities are expanding at a quicker pace. Urban heat, congestion, pollution, and waste have all grown as a result of the rapid expansion, placing an increasing burden on limited water and energy resources.

Ecosystems in at least 19 Australian regions seem to be on the verge of or have already collapsed. Ecosystems all around the continent, including the Antarctic and subantarctic, are in danger of collapsing. Massive kelp forests in Tasmania have been decimated, causing sudden shifts in the ecosystem.

Approximately 93% of the terrestrial habitat occupied by vulnerable species between 2000 and 2017 was not reported to the federal government for evaluation under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

An environmental scientist at the CSIRO was the report’s primary author; a senior Indigenous lawyer was Dr Terri Janke; a University of Sydney professor was Prof Emma Johnston, a deputy vice-chancellor for research.

There was a strong emphasis placed on the fact that the natural environment serves as a vital resource for humans in the form of food, clean water, fresh air, and raw materials.

There are calls for greater water buybacks as the government continues to fall short of its aim for the Murray Darling Basin.

“The overall prognosis for our ecosystem is worsening as a result of a fast changing climate and decreasing biodiversity.” All of us will be affected by this. Understanding, protecting, and restoring the health of our ecosystem is in our own best interest, they said.

“We too have a role to play in this.” The inherent worth of our environment extends much beyond the immediate benefits humans get from it.

There is a need for national leadership, integrated management across federal and state and territory systems; new sources of finance; and greater monitoring and reporting in order to improve the environment, according to a study.

Environmental rules in the nation aren’t functioning, according to Plibersek, who told the ABC on Tuesday that they need to be changed. Continuing to do what we are doing now would yield the same consequences, she said.

Environmental regulations, including the founding of the Environment Protection Agency, are anticipated to be reformed by the government next year, after “quite extensive” consultations, says the environment minister.

Climate change “is an emergency” and requires “emergency action,” Sarah Hanson-Young, the Green Party’s environmental spokesman, said.

She characterized it as a “litany of environmental wreckage caused by climate change and years of denial and neglect,” and she added that environmental rules needed to be updated, notably to include the climatic implications of planned fossil fuel ventures.

“If the minister is actually worried by this report, she will take urgent action to guarantee that no more crucial habitat is removed and polluting projects that are fueling the climate catastrophe are halted,” Hanson-Young said.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, the president of the Australian Academy of Science, described the research as “sobering reading” and predicted that critical thresholds in many natural systems will be surpassed if global warming continues.

There has been a “severe underinvestment” in scientific knowledge and ability, according to Jagadish. He asked for the establishment of an independent organization to maintain data on wildlife and biodiversity. In order to better address the climate catastrophe, he suggested that Australia review its carbon reduction pledges.

Australia’s “total failure in environmental and conservation management” was proven in a research by Professor Euan Ritchie of Deakin University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology, he claimed.

He did say, though, that it was yet possible to alter the course. “We stand to earn tremendous social, cultural, economic, and environmental advantages if we act now and improve and enforce environmental regulations,” he added. “We also stand to give substantially larger investment to help in the conservation and recovery of the environment and vulnerable species.

After receiving the report in December, a spokeswoman for Deputy Liberal Leader and former Environment Minister Sussan Ley justified its withholding until after the election. “Several efforts which safeguarded Australia’s natural environment” had been “delivered” by the Coalition, he said, in response to the report.

According to the spokeswoman, “Sussan Ley accepted the counsel of professionals and scientists in conserving our natural environment, and Tanya Plibersek must do the same.”.