Address Biodiversity Loss

We depend on nature – for the oxygen we need to breathe, the medicines we utilise and the food we eat. Without nature, human civilisation would not be possible.

The Nature Conservation Trust works with private landholders to conserve ecosystems that sustain healthy human life.

Ecosystems provide clean air, water and food. Water catchments purify the water we drink, forests oxygenate the air we breathe and native vegetation helps protect against floods and soil erosion.[1]

Ecosystems provide four kinds of services:

  • provisioning services – such as food, fibre, fuel and fresh water
  • cultural services – such as spiritual values, recreation and aesthetic values
  • supporting services –nutrient cycling, atmospheric oxygen production, soil formation and retention, and
  • regulating services – such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, pest and disease regulation, water purification)[2].
Biodiversity is the engine room of the ecosystem services that support human life[3]. The diversity of organisms is the direct source of many services, such as food and fibre, and underpins others including clean water and air, through the role of organisms in energy and material cycles. Changes in and the loss of biodiversity directly influences the capacity of an ecosystem to produce and supply essential services, and can affect the long term ability of ecological, economic and social systems to adapt and respond to global pressures.[4]

Biodiversity is essential for healthy people and a healthy environment, but is under considerable threat. The Nature Conservation Trust of NSW is working with the community to protect biodiversity in NSW.

70% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened or already destroyed.

18,788 species out of 52,017 so far assessed by the International Umion for the Conservation of Nature are threatened with extinction.

22% of the planet’s mammals and 30% of amphibians are threatened with extinction.

Addressing loss of Biodiversity - The Global Picture

Globally, there is much work being done to help address the challenge of biodiversity conservation. The global community has recognised the importance of biodiversity to present and future generations, and the urgent need for the conservation and sustainable use of nature’s genetic resources. This recognition culminated in the 1992 International Convention on Biological Diversity which was presented at the Rio Earth Summit. The majority of the world’s countries are signatories to the Convention.

The objectives of the Convention are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources[5].

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all species on earth. It is the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes, and the terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems of which they are a part.[6]

The International community have developed a Biodiversity Strategic Plan for the protection of biodiversity.  The Biodiversity Strategic Plan for 2011-2020[7] includes the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets which include:

  • By 2020, at least halve and, where feasible, bring close to zero the rate of loss of natural habitats, including forests
  • By 2020, establish a conservation target of 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine and coastal areas of ecologically representative, well connected protected areas
  • By 2020, restore at least 15% of degraded areas through conservation and restoration activities[8]

All signatories to the Convention including Australia are working to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Addressing loss of Biodiversity - The National Picture

Australia is one of the most biologically rich countries on the planet, however we also have the worst mammal extinction record on Earth!

59% of Australian mammals are threatened with extinction.
40% lizards and 30% of birds are also threatened with extinction.

The National Reserve System is the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation in Australia. Australia’s National Reserve System is a network of recognised protected areas. The goal of the National Reserve System is to develop a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas, to secure the long-term protection of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity.[9]

Establishing a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system can be explained as follows:

  • Comprehensive – protect examples of all regional ecosystems in each IBRA bioregion[10]
  • Adequate – protect enough of these ecosystems to ensure long term viability and resilience of the protected areas to sustain the biodiversity it supports
  • Representative - protect examples of the regional variation of ecosystems in each IBRA subregion

An IBRA (or Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia)  is a geographic area identified having regard to attributes such as climate, geology, landform, vegetation, flora and fauna and land use. There are 85 bioregions in Australia and 17 within NSW. IBRA subregions are based on finer differences in attributes such as geology and vegetation (NSW NPWS 2003).

The Australian National reserves system includes more than 10,000 protected areas covering 17.88 per cent of the country - over 137 million hectares[11]

‘Protected area’ has a specific international definition:

A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values (Dudley 2008)

There are four kinds of protected areas recognized by the Australian National Reserve System: (1) public reserves (government owned); (2) private protected areas; (3) Indigenous protected areas; (4) shared management reserves.

The Nature Conservation Trust of NSW is working with the community to establish private protected areas. In 2014, it was estimated that there are ~5,000 properties private protected areas covering 8.9 million hectares.[12]

These private protected areas conserve some of the nations most endangered ecosystems and species[13]. For Australia to meet its obligations for creating a representative reserve system under the Convention on Biological Diversity, critical gaps in the reserve network will need to be filled. Most of these gaps occur in regions dominated by private land where voluntary private land conservation will be the only realistic options for filling the gaps.

Of the 7 million hectares of Box Gum Grassy Woodland that once covered the wheat – sheep belt, tablelands and some coastal regions of south eastern Australia, around 405,000 hectares remains. Clearing for agriculture has had a profound impact on the Box Gum Grassy Woodland, which is listed as critically endangered.

Addressing loss of Biodiversity - The Regional Picture

New South Wales has a total area just over 80 million hectares, 70% of which is in private ownership or Crown leasehold.[14]

Public conservation reserves cover less than 10% of the state[15] and NSW has close to 1000 species and communities threatened with extinction.

The protection of biodiversity on private land has become increasingly important for the long-term survival of species and ecosystem processes.

Private protected areas are an essential part of protecting biodiversity. Species and ecosystem processes operate beyond property boundaries which means a landscape approach is required to address biodiversity loss. Private protected areas can buffer national parks, create stepping stones across the landscape or establish new islands of protected area in locations which contain little or no conservation reserves.

Connectivity Graphic

The Nature Conservation Trust of NSW was established to work cooperatively with the community to create private protected areas.

The NSW Government supports biodiversity conservation on private lands in a number of ways including:

[1] (www.environment.gov.au/land/nrs/about-nrs/australias-protected-areas accessed 08/01/16)

[2] Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council 2010, Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030, Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.Pg7-8 and p19.

[3] Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2009). Ecosystem Services: Key Concepts and Applications, Occasional Paper No 1, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. P4

www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b53e6002-4ea7-4108-acc8-40fff488bab7/files/ecosystem-services.pdf

[4] Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2009). Ecosystem Services: Key Concepts and Applications, Occasional Paper No 1, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. P4

www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b53e6002-4ea7-4108-acc8-40fff488bab7/files/ecosystem-services.pdf p4

[5] Article 1 CBD 1992

[6] www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/conservation (accessed 08012016)

[7] www.cbd.int/sp/

[8] For more information: http://www.cbd.int/sp/

[9] www.environment.gov.au/land/nrs

[10] The IBRA system (or Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia) was developed as a framework to identify deficiencies in the Australian protected area network and to set priorities for further enhancing the reserve system (Thackway and Cresswell 1995). The IBRA system divides Australia into bioregions on the basis of their dominant landscape-scale attributes. The attributes used include climate, geology, landform, vegetation, flora and fauna and land use. There are 85 bioregions in Australia and 17 within NSW. IBRA subregions are based on finer differences in attributes such as geology and vegetation (NSW NPWS 2003).

[11] www.environment.gov.au/land/nrs

[12] Fitzsimons J, “Private protected areas in Australia: current status and future directions” (2015) 10 Nature Conservation 1 at 1.

[13] Fitzsimons n 7 at p 19

[14] OEH, Biodiversity Legislatiove Review OEH Paper 3: Conservation Action, 2014

[15] EPA, SOE 2012, www.epa.nsw.gov.au/soe/soe2012/chapter5/chp_5.3.htm#5.3.17 accessed 080115