Biodiversity has a direct impact on all of our lives. As humans, it gives us a functioning ecosystem that provides oxygen, clear air and water, plant pollutions, pest control, wastewater treatment, and ecosystem services.
Read on to find out more about biodiversity in Australia.
What is biodiversity and why is it important?
Biodiversity includes all the animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms that make up our ecosystems and work together to support life.
• Species diversity. This refers to the number of different species within a particular area. Each species represents a unique evolutionary path and contributes to the overall diversity of life on Earth.
• Genetic diversity. This refers to the variety of genes within a species. Genetic diversity is essential for species to adapt to changing environmental conditions and ensure populations’ long-term survival.
• Ecosystem diversity. This refers to the variety of ecosystems within a region. Different ecosystems, such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands, support a distinct assortment of species and play specific ecological roles.
Biodiversity is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, food, wealth, fuel, and the vital services our lives depend on.
Organisms, ecosystems, and ecological processes supply us with oxygen and clean water. They help keep our lives in balance and regulate the climate.
Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities.
According to the 2014 Living Planet Report, our demand on the planet is more than 50% greater than what nature can sustain, with dramatic declines in biodiversity since 1970.
CSIRO research shows that by 2070, the impacts of climate change on Australia’s biodiversity will be widespread and extreme. We must take action to preserve this irreplaceable natural wealth and reduce biodiversity loss.
What is the state of biodiversity in Australia?
Australia’s biodiversity is both rich and unique. Between 7-10% of all species on Earth are located in Australia, with 85% of Australia’s plant species endemic to the continent.
As a country, we are among the worst on biodiversity conservation, with a 5-10% loss, as noted in a study held between 1996 and 2008.
Western Australia alone has some of the richest diversity of plants and animals in the world, with the southwest recognised as one of the world’s 35 Biodiversity Hotspots (and the only one in Australia).
What are biodiversity hotspots?
Biodiversity hotspots are defined as geographical regions with exceptionally high levels of species richness and are also under significant threat due to human activities.
These areas are characterised by having a high number of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth (endemic species). Biodiversity hotspots are recognised for their biological importance and the urgent need to conserve their unique and threatened ecosystems.
To be classified as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet the following:
• Species richness. The hotspot must have at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (about 0.5% of the world’s total) as endemic and should have lost at least 70% of its original habitat.
• Threat level. The hotspot should be under significant threat due to human activities, such as destruction, invasive species, pollution, and climate change.
What are the leading causes of biodiversity loss in Australia?
The leading causes of biodiversity loss in Australia are attributed to:
• Habitat destruction and land use changes. The clearing of land for agriculture, urbanisation, and mining has led to the destruction and fragmentation of habitats.
• Invasive species. Introduced animal and plant species can outcompete native species for resources, predate upon them or spread diseases.
• Climate change. Rising temperatures, altered rainfall patterns, and other climate-related changes impact ecosystems and species’ ability to survive.
• Overexploitation. Unsustainable hunting, fishing, and harvesting of species for food, medicine, and other purposes can lead to population declines and even extinctions.
It is important to note that these are only some of the factors associated with biodiversity loss in Australia, and these factors also often interact and compound one another.
This is why the conservation of biodiversity is the responsibility of all Australians. It is imperative that our ‘megadiverse’ areas be protected to ensure their survival and restoration.
Because our survival as humans is dependent on the survival of biodiversity.
We cannot live without biodiversity. Which brings us to our next point.
How can you help biodiversity in Australia?
• Support environmental organisations. Contribute or volunteer with local and national environmental organisations that work to protect Australia’s ecosystems and species.
• Grow a native garden. Plant native species in your garden to provide habit and food sources for native wildlife and avoid planting invasive species that could harm local ecosystems.
• Reduce your carbon footprint. Everything we do in life has an impact. From our daily commute to what we buy at the grocery store, our lifestyle choices contribute to our carbon footprint. Australians have one of the highest personal carbon footprints in the world, but we can change that. Start by calculating your carbon footprint and taking steps to minimize your carbon emissions.
• Support indigenous land management. Indigenous communities in Australia have maintained traditional land management practices that have benefited biodiversity and Country for centuries. Support their efforts and learn from their knowledge.
Collective efforts are crucial for effective biodiversity conservation and restoration. Every small action we take can contribute to the bigger goal of preserving Australia’s unique ecosystems and species for future generations.
At Carbon Positive Australia we have been supporting biodiversity since 2001. You can read more about our biodiversity breakthroughs here.