To protect what is most distinctive about Australia, the nature of Australia, we need to address the threats facing facing our most vulnerable native species.
If Australians are to protect what is most distinctive about this country – our unique plants, animals and ecological communities – we need an ambitious, systematic, well-funded and nationally coordinated threat abatement system.
Since European colonisation Australia’s wildlife has been besieged – by voracious new predators, largescale habitat destruction, dramatically intensified or suppressed fire patterns, dominating new herbivores and aggressive weeds, intensive exploitation of water, forests and oceans and, more recently, a rapidly changing climate.
The consequences are dire – averaging at least five extinctions a decade, Australia has lost more than 100 unique species. Thousands more are greatly diminished and declining, with close to 2000 species listed as nationally threatened.
It is not possible to recover all of our threatened species one by one through species-focused efforts. We also need a concerted national focus to overcome the major threats our native plants and animals have in common.
This will also safeguard many other species not yet recognised as threatened, help recover environmental health, and benefit industries like agriculture and tourism.
Australia already has a national system for responding to threats to nature. Under the EPBC Act, the Australian Government can list ‘key threatening processes’ and prepare ‘threat abatement plans’.
This should be one of Australia’s most powerful mechanisms for protecting biodiversity – for stopping extinctions, preventing the decline of more species, and returning ecosystems to health and resilience.
The benefits of a strong threat abatement focus have been demonstrated. The seabird bycatch by longline fishing has dropped from many thousands of albatrosses and petrels a year in the 1990s to fewer than 50, as detailed in our case study. Another success has been the eradication of invasive animals from many islands, creating safe havens for threatened wildlife and breeding seabirds.
But for most threats the system is failing – the 21 threats currently listed under the EPBC Act are far from comprehensive, many threats lack a threat abatement plan or other national response, and many abatement plans are poorly implemented. The system is starved of funding.
The goal of this project is an ambitious, collaborative, well-funded, nationally coordinated threat abatement system that will be effective in reversing Australia’s extinction crisis.
Working with other environment groups and experts, the Threats to Nature project has developed recommendations to greatly strengthen the national threat abatement system. We will be working to persuade Australia’s governments to adopt these recommendations and will undertake collaborative projects to contribute to the abatement of particular threats.
The benefits of a bolstered national abatement system will be immense:
Our submissions to the EPBC Act review:
Australia’s threat abatement system: