National survey results reveal invasive species rank as greatest threat to Australia’s native plants and animals

A national survey of conservation, government and landcare groups in Australia has revealed that weeds, invasive animals, and ‘all invasive species’ rank just above habitat loss as the greatest threats to the country’s native plants and animals.

The survey was carried out over eight weeks across a wide range of conservation, government and Landcare groups, asking respondents to rank threats ‘putting at risk the conservation of Australia’s native plants and animals’.

It was aimed at building a better picture of the work tens of thousands of Australians carry out, often for free, to battle weeds, feral animals and other invasive threats to the environment.

Almost 94% of respondents rated invasive animals as either a ‘very high’ or ‘high’ threat to Australia’s native plants and animals, nearly 93% rated ‘weeds’ and ‘all invasive species’ in those two highest categories, while just under 92% rated habitat loss as either a ‘very high’ or ‘high’ threat.

The ‘combination of climate change and invasive species’ rated just over 88 per cent.

Fire ranked the lowest, followed by climate change.

Percentage of respondents rating threats to Australia’s native plants & animals as ‘high’ or ‘very high’

Percentage of respondents rating threats to Australia’s native plants & animals as ‘high’ or ‘very high’

Which issues are you tackling?

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed are tackling weed problems (92.2%), and just over half are working on invasive animals issues.

Surprisingly, just 6 per cent said they are working on invasive marine problems, and 12 per cent are tackling invasive diseases.

Both a lack of funding and general awareness among the Australian public about how invasive species are harming our native plants and animals are proving the greatest obstacles to tackling invasive species.

More than half of respondents blamed a lack of strong laws and policies for hampering their organisation’s ability to combat invasive species. Finding volunteers is also a problem.

Which invasive species threats does your organisation work on?What’s needed from government?

Wide ranging answers were given for what governments at local, state and federal levels could be doing better to tackle invasive species, including:

  • Fund massive control and eradication programs to knock back feral populations of rabbits, cats, foxes, deer, cane toads etc.
  • Approach invasive species in the same style of co-ordination as bushfire control, with a centralised body and funding, with well co-ordinated paid and volunteer actions.
  • Awareness campaigns.
  • Ban the importation of new pasture grasses.
  • Make industry contribute to off-farm impacts.
  • Research biological controls for rampant escapees.
  • Ban all weed species from importation and distribution.
  • Ban cats in sensitive areas and control them elsewhere.
  • Employ and train more people to tackle the issues.
  • Enforce declared plant legislation at the landholder level.

The survey also revealed the huge levels of both volunteer and paid hours being put into tackling invasive species in Australia. This information shows both the high cost of tackling invasive species and the interest in the community in contributing to control efforts.

Who completed the survey?

More than a thousand groups, including small and large conservation groups, Bushcare, Landcare and NRM groups, as well as local councils and Friends of groups, were contacted as part of the survey.

Just over 800 completed the survey and represented a broad cross-section of organisations working on invasive species problems in this country including Landcare and Coastcare groups, bush regenerators, NRM bodies, environmental consultants, government agencies and research organisations.

The survey results will be used to create an Australian database of groups working on these issues, and to help us better share information on current invasive species threats and the opportunities for improving laws and policies.

The Invasive Species Council would like to thank the Ian Potter Foundation for its generous support in making this project possible.

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