Climate change, pollution and deforestation are putting Australian nature under massive pressure. A paper by the Ministry of the Environment now shows the extent of the destruction: the country's biodiversity is dwindling rapidly, and more and more animals are threatened with extinction.
The number of endangered species in Australia has increased by eight percent in the past five years. In addition, the pressure on all ecosystems in the country is increasing due to climate change. These are some of the dramatic findings of the State of the Environment Report 2021. The five-yearly assessment is published by the Department of the Environment. Commentators and the media Down Under described the results as "shocking" and spoke of "catastrophic loss of wildlife and habitat".
More than 30 experts collected the data for two years. It covers every aspect of Australia's environment, from rivers and oceans to air and ice, rural and urban areas. Reading the latest report was "sobering," commented the University of Sydney.
Since its colonization in 1788, 39 mammal species have become extinct on the red continent - more than on any other continent, according to the researchers. At the same time, 80 percent of the country's nearly 400 mammal species live only in Australia, including koalas, wombats and the egg-laying platypus. Since the publication of the last report in 2016, 17 species of mammals, 17 species of birds and 19 species of frogs have been included in the list of threatened species or have now been classified as "critically endangered", it said. Overall, the number of endangered animal and plant species has increased from 1774 to 1918 in the past five years.
One of the main reasons is the loss of natural habitat. According to the report, around 7.7 million hectares of land were cleared in Australia between 2000 and 2017. But the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020 also hit the wildlife hard.
'Overall, the state and development of Australia's environment is poor and continues to deteriorate due to increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction,' the report says. This has a negative impact not only on people's health, but also on their standard of living and their cultural and spiritual fulfilment.
The previous Conservative government of Scott Morrison, which was heavily criticized for its passive stance on environmental policy, had already received the report in December 2021 but withheld it because of the general elections in May. Anthony Albanese's new government, on the other hand, has made the fight against climate change a key item on its agenda. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the report reflected "more than a decade of inaction and willful ignorance".
(This article was first published on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.)