Threats To Nature In Australia
Since 1788, Australia’s plants and animals have been besieged by numerous threats – voracious new predators, large-scale destruction of habitat, dramatically intensified and suppressed patterns of fire, dominating new herbivores and aggressive weeds, intensive exploitation of forests and oceans and, more recently, a rapidly changing climate.
The consequences have been dire – averaging 4–5 documented extinctions a decade, Australia has lost more than 100 unique species. At least another 100 are at imminent risk of extinction – assessed as likely to be lost within two decades. Thousands more are in decline, with around 1800 species listed as nationally threatened.
Threatened animals listed under the EPBC Act are each impacted by an average of six threats, often acting synergistically. Most threatened species and ecological communities are typically threatened by:
- one or more invasive species – introduced animals, plants and pathogens
- habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation
- ecosystem modifications – particularly adverse changes to fire regimes and water flows
- often some form of exploitation – such as logging and fishing and, increasingly, climate change.
Top 4 threats to nature
Unless we dramatically strengthen threat abatement and recovery of threatened species Australia will continue to lose species. And the long term impacts on our economy, and for the culture of our nation, will be disastrous.
“Australia’s natural environment and iconic places are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat. The pressures on the environment are significant—including land-use change, habitat loss and degradation, and feral animal and invasive plant species.”
– 10-year review of the EPBC Act (2020)
Feral pigs (Sus scrofas) imperil at least 149 nationally listed threatened species. They prey on native animals and plants, dig up large expanses of soil and vegetation in search of food, and foul fresh water. They also host diseases that can be transmitted to other species.
“Without clear policies to regenerate degraded forests and protect existing tracts at a massive scale, Australia stands to lose a large proportion of its remaining endemic biodiversity.” – Bradshaw 2012
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a soil-borne, microscopic water mould that causes a severe plant disease known as Phytophthora root rot or dieback. It imperils 236 nationally listed threatened species and 32 threatened ecological communities.
The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) imperils 321 nationally listed threatened species, 21% of Australia’s total, more than any other invasive species. It also threatens 9 ecological communities.