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A report presented today paints a disturbing picture of the state of the environment in Australia. Nowhere in the world is animal species dying faster than Down. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said in a presentation State of the Environment 2021 Report.
Even many Australian ecosystems are showing “signs of collapse”. So say the leading scientists who contributed to the survey, which is conducted every five years on behalf of the Australian government. The environment is under pressure from climate change, loss of habitat for native animals and plants, invasive species, pollution and mining. “This is an emergency for both biodiversity and climate,” said Emma Johnston, lead author of the report.
It’s a shocking document, said Minister Tanya Plibersek, who spoke at the show. She noted the overarching role of climate change. “They are causing warmer oceans, more severe droughts, more diseases, destruction of our native animal habitats and exacerbation of extreme weather events that cause bushfires and floods. The effects of the bushfires two years ago are still being felt. An ecological bombshell for eastern Australia.”
Serious consequences of forest fires
1918’s native Australian animal species is in danger of extinction. That’s 8 percent more than in 2016. More than 80 percent of the nearly 400 mammal species that live in Australia are found nowhere else in the world. Scientists estimate that at least 39 mammal species have become extinct since the colonization of Australia by the British in 1788.
The bushfire season in New South Wales, where Sydney is located, has now lasted eight months, according to experts. Bushfires in 2019 and 2020 had catastrophic effects on animals and their habitats. During the so-called “Black Summer”, it is estimated that between one and three billion animals died or were seriously injured. Bushfires are the worst natural disaster for Australian animals in recent history.
About nine percent of the koala’s habitat has been destroyed during wildfires. Last February, the iconic animal was placed on the Critically Endangered Species list. “These sleeping beasts have managed to survive in our eucalyptus trees for more than 25 million years, and only this year they have been listed as endangered,” said Bleibersk.
The Great Barrier Reef is bleached
In addition, invasive species cause major problems; Australia now has more exotic native plant species. It also researches the health of underwater life. Ocean heat waves are causing massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
The detailed study, to which dozens of scientists contributed, will already be completed by the end of 2021. Despite the worrying results, the previous government decided to postpone publication until after the federal election last May. Labor won the election, and the Social Democrats are back in power in Australia for the first time in a decade.
“This is one of the most important documents in Australian science,” said Bleibersk. “The previous government received the report before Christmas but decided to hide it for months. And when you read it, you understand why.” The report states that due to a lack of leadership, little has been invested to reduce environmental damage. There is a lack of action on climate change, deforestation, invasive species, pollution, and rampant urban sprawl. Bleibersk accuses previous conservative governments of “ten years of passivity and willful ignorance”.
According to the report’s authors, there is still hope. More attention is given to the indigenous knowledge of the country, such as the traditional management of forests in which indigenous people burn the land in a controlled manner. According to the researchers, this could contribute to a better management of nature.
Researchers are also positive about the investments made by individuals and environmental organizations, who have purchased large tracts of land in recent years to protect nature. However, support and cooperation from the government and the business community is crucial in this regard.
It is now up to the Labor government to reform environmental regulations and prevent further loss of native species. Australia’s new government has pledged to tackle climate change after its election victory. But what this looks like in practice is not yet clear. There is already criticism that the government does not intend to stop new coal mines and natural gas projects.
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