Biodiversity: A hot topic this month

Posted on Posted in Backyard, Cape York, Central Australia, Central QLD, crawly, East coast, Eyre Peninsula, feathered, finned, furry, Mallee, Marine, North QLD, NSW coast, scaly, South Australia, South East QLD

The arrival of spring is not the only reason to celebrate in September, it’s also national biodiversity month.

It provides a chance to celebrate Australia’s magnificent flora, fauna and landscapes; and to promote the conservation of our unique native wildlife.

To wrap up NBM 2011, I thought we’d reflect a bit on what “biodiversity” means in Australia.

The Northern Kimberley’s are known as one of Australia’s biodiversity hotspots. The region supports a diverse range of landscape features, and high proportion of endemic species. Image courtesy of www.kimberleyaustralia.com.

Firstly, what is biodiversity? Well it can have many different interpretations, but broadly: biodiversity is the variety of life in a given habitat or ecosystem.

Australia’s biodiversity is so rich that it is recognized as a mega-diverse country. 17 Mega-diverse countries exist; collectively they hold more than two thirds of the earth’s biodiversity.

What makes Australia mega-diverse?

• Australia holds around 9% of the earth’s biodiversity

• Australia has 147,579 described species, although the actual number of species may be more like 566,398. That’s more plants and animals than 95% of countries on Earth!

• We have more endemic amphibians than 97% of other countries; more endemic plants than 98% of other countries; and more endemic birds than 99% of other countries

• We have more reptiles (~920 sp.), and more endemic mammals (~330 sp.) than any other country

Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilberti) (left) is considered to be Australia’s most endangered mammal; while the Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) (right) is Australia’s most endangered bird. Both species have less than 50 adults remaining in the wild. Photos courtesy of Dick Walker (www.potoroo.org) and www.lakesneedwater.org

Of the mega-diverse countries, Australia is the only developed nation with a low population density and a healthy economy. This gives us the perfect opportunity to conserve a significant part of the globes biodiversity. Alas, our track record is not so good…

• Since European settlement, more than 60 Australian plant species have become extinct (worst record of all countries on Earth); along with 54 animal species

• We have the worst record of mammal extinctions on earth – having lost 27 species

23 species of bird and 4 frogs are extinct

388 native species are threatened, including 20% of mammals, 14% of amphibians, 6% of birds and 5% of plants

• We have more threatened reptiles and amphibians than any other country

• Close to 3,000 of our ecosystems are threatened – we have one of the worst rates of land clearance in the world

So what are we doing to help protect our remaining biodiversity? In addition to having legislation in place (e.g. EPBC Act, 1999), to manage ecosystems and the species within, Australia has over 895,288km² of protected land (approx. 11.5% of our total land area) in the form of National Parks and reserves; and over 1 million km² of protected marine area (approx. 11% of our ocean).

Most importantly, organisations such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia are devoted to understanding and conserving our unique and wondrous biodiversity – before it’s gone.

Hopefully by the time next September rolls around, we’ll have some good news to report on.

2 thoughts on “Biodiversity: A hot topic this month

  1. You never know just what you might discover if you keep your wits about you and use all of your senses (and take those ear phones out when you walk or work in the garden!) This morning under the dirty clothes downstairs by the washing machine I found a frog. After checking my reference book, I realised that I had uncovered an Australian Bullfrog. Once disturbed, it took off in rather large leaps using those powerful hind legs. Magic.

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