Australia’s biodiversity is of global importance, recognised as mega-diverse due to both its richness and its uniqueness. It is estimated that Australia is home to as many as 560,000 species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth, while between seven and ten per cent of all species globally are found in Australia.
The Australian environment has substantially changed since European settlement, attributed to the introduction of novel species (e.g. weeds, cane toads, predators such as cats and foxes), the clearance of native vegetation for agriculture and urban development, widespread grazing by hooved animals, disease (such as the root rot fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi) and altered fire regimes.
Feral predators such as cats and foxes have decimated many small mammal and bird populations, while habitat loss and land clearing continue to be a leading factor adding to Australia’s list of threatened species of which there are almost 2,000 formally listed.
Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2019-2030 has established three broad goals: Connect all Australians with nature, care for nature in all its diversity, and share and build knowledge. Contributing to these goals is an objective to improve the conservation management of Australia’s landscapes, waterways, wetlands and seascapes – including an increase in the number and extent of significant ecosystems and threatened species protected. In Australia, around 20 per cent of land is formally protected – so some good progress towards “30 by 30” – but more is needed with regard to both absolute area and with geospatial strategy in mind.
Alarmingly, a 2021 report from the World Wide Fund for Nature lists eastern Australia among 24 global deforestation fronts – alongside the Amazon, Borneo and Congo Basin – and Australia is the only developed nation represented on the list.