Australia is facing an extinction crisis for biodiversity, including its fauna, but also flora and other organisms and processes.The country has one of the globe’s worst extinction records with 449 bird, mammal, reptile, fish, frog and invertebrate species listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There are also 30 mammal species, four frog and 22 bird species or subspecies that are extinct.
The status of many other animal species remains poorly known with declining numbers. This extinction crisis is caused primarily by humans directly or indirectly destroying and degrading habitat loss and degradation, polluting, overharvesting, changing the climate, introducing invasive species and increasing incidents of disease. The Centre for Ecosystem Science welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to the Senate’s Committee for Environment and Communications on 11 terms of reference.
Our researchers have decades of research background in identifying problems and solutions to mitigate this extinction crisis. Considerable successes can be achieved by improving legislation and policy which recognizes human impacts on biodiversity and the critical ecosystem services provided.
- Australia’s extinction crisis continues, with increasing numbers of threatened species, declining numbers and distribution of native species. The full extent of this problem remains largely unknown.
- Australia is failing to mitigate rates of extinction, despite possessing much of the knowledge and legislative, policy and management capacity to slow extinction of fauna. There is an urgent need for improved protection, mitigation of key threats and restoration measures for the nation’s ecosystems and their biodiversity.
- Increasing recognition of the value of biodiversity for ecosystem services providing for humanity needs to be realized in decision-making in relation to natural resource developments and other threats driving extinctions. Many of Australia’s commitments to international agreements and conventions related to the extinction of fauna through goals and targets are poorly implemented, despite rapidly approaching deadlines (e.g. 2020 – Convention on Biological Diversity).
- Increased funding is essential for improved management and tracking of changes to biodiversity, including threatened species, ensuring that public and private conservation organization are able to demonstrate the effectiveness of public investments. This should continue and expand resourcing of indigenous ranger programs.
- Australia should continue to grow its national reserve system, ensuring comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness of ecosystems. We provide recommendations within this submission for changes in policy, legislation, management and funding which relate to the terms of reference.