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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Radical shift needed in relationship with our environment

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A radical shift in our relationship with the Australian environment is needed, and it is time we intervene in the extinction crisis, according to scientific experts.

A review led by Charles Darwin University found negative trends in Australian biodiversity loss – caused by invasive species, interrupted First Nations land and sea management, altered fire regimes, and changed water flows – could rapidly worsen unless policymakers act with haste.

CDU Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods researcher and lead author Professor Sarah Legge said there was a desperate need for increased investment, policy reform and expanded conservation management.

‘Current reform of Australia’s environmental legislation could mark transformational change,’ said Professor Legge. ‘An accumulating array of threats to Australian biodiversity reflect the low value placed on conservation of the environment, with this perspective deeply ingrained in inadequate legislation, policy and management.’

Koala extinction Blinky. Photo supplied.

Terrible numbers

According to the study, extinction risks for Australian mammals are far exceeding the global average.

University of Melbourne researcher Dr Libby Rumpff said a radical shift in our relationship with the environment was needed to reduce the high risks of extinction.

‘Predictions of ecosystem collapse and escalating extinction rates of Australian endemic species could become reality if biodiversity threats aren’t adequately controlled. Effective recovery requires society to reframe its relationship with the environment.’

CDU RIEL researchers and co-authors Professors John Woinarski and Stephen Garnett note the inadequacies that have contributed to past and ongoing biodiversity declines, but also that there are examples of conservation success to build on.

‘These losses in biodiversity are symptomatic of shortcomings in resourcing, law, policy, and management,’ said Professor Woinarski.

‘Yet we have seen enough examples of advances in conservation practice from invasive species control, First Nations land management, and citizen science to know that these are effective ways to control biodiversity threats and reduce the risk of extinction rates escalating across all animal groups.

‘These methods can achieve success, but such management must be strategically expanded in scale and intensity, and renewed funding and stronger legislation would support this expansion,’ he said.

What will the future climate reality hold for humans on a fast warming planet?

Climate pressure

The study also suggests climate change is having a compounding effect on both existing threats and new environmental stresses, causing population declines, ecosystem shifts and severe wildfires.

‘Environmental impacts, including habitat loss, are now compounded by climate change, particularly through extreme drought, heat, wildfire, and flooding,’ said Professor Garnett.

‘Given that the incidence of extensive and severe fires will increase with ongoing climate change, some ecosystems and species are unlikely to recover before the next comparable event. This could lead to major shifts in vegetation composition and losses of many species, especially among animal and plant groups of ancient lineages that evolved under conditions of much less disturbance.

These ongoing and escalating losses of our nature will affect us all, and blight the world we leave to our descendants. We have to craft a better world, transform the way we live in this country,’ he said.

Professors Legge, Woinarski and Garnett are members of The Biodiversity Council, which brings together leading Australian experts to raise awareness of Australia’s biodiversity crisis and to promote evidence-based solutions.

The review ‘Loss of terrestrial biodiversity in Australia: Magnitude, causation, and response’ was published in Science.

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  1. Why is the standard weekly fear porn, now being published in the news section? Sperts making wild claims that never come true is not news, it’s opinion at best.

    • Sadly it is true, extinction rates are accelerating and pest species like fire ants are thriving.
      Our failure to cease selfishness and greed are doing enormous damage.
      It is news.

      • I, too, wish people would stop complaining about no having a home, affordable food, heat, light. Though, I do have a question for you – Can you tell me how they are distinguishing one species from another when they are coming up with ‘species extinction’ numbers? Wouldn’t it be funny if that definition, applied to humans, not only would make Aboriginals a different species, but would actually make the French and English two different species? Let me know when you find out the answer.

        • It’s called SCIENCE….. constant population monitoring, robust statistical analysis.
          And FYI, different “races” of humans are not different species. Maybe you should consult a scientist for some definitions. And facts.

      • Canada, California, and Hawaii are all politically hard left, and have band forest fuel load management cause ‘Ma climate catastrophe boiling’. In Maui, the power lines were blown down due to high winds, the power company failed to turn them off like they were supposed to, and physics did the rest. Same thing happened in California in 2018. Has NSW been reducing its forest fuel load this winter???

  2. Christian, IF you obtained news from trustworthy & reputable sources you’d know that Canada & California have NOT banned (band? ha!) forest fuel management. And never have. That is an oft repeated Sky furphy, disproved multiple times already.

    And since you claim forest fires only occur because of “politically hard left” [governments], then how is it that Australia experienced its worst ever forest fires after 6 years of conservative Federal government & 8 years of conservative NSW government?

    And how then do you explain this years “worst ever” fire seasons in Croatia, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal & the Canary Islands? And one of the worst three on record for Siberia? None of those governments could be categorised as “hard left”


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