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4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010  
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Contents >> Landscape >> Biodiversity

This document was added 02/05/2010.



BIODIVERSITY

PARKS AND PROTECTED AREAS AS A PERCENTAGE OF AUSTRALIA’S AREA
Graph: Parks and protected areas as a percentage of Australia's area
Note: 2000 data for Categories III and IV too small to show.
Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database, <http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/nrs/science/capad.html>, last viewed October 2009.


Australia employs the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) protected area classification scheme. This system groups protected land into the following seven categories (Endnote 1):
  • Category IA – Strict Nature Reserve: Protected area managed mainly for science.
  • Category IB – Wilderness Area: Protected area managed mainly for wilderness protection.
  • Category II – National Park: Protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation.
  • Category III – Natural Monument: Protected area managed for conservation of specific natural features.
  • Category IV – Habitat/Species Management Area: Protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention.
  • Category V – Protected Landscape/Seascape: Protected area managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation.
  • Category VI – Managed Resource Protected Areas: Protected area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

From 2000 to 2006, Australia’s terrestrial protected areas expanded by 28 million hectares. In 2006, Australia’s 8,780 terrestrial parks and protected areas extended across 89.5 million hectares or 12% of the country’s land area. In 2006, most of Australia’s terrestrial protected areas were owned by state governments. Only six were managed by Australia’s federal (Commonwealth) government, but these included the ecologically and culturally significant Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks.

Of the 2013 protected areas not owned by government, 21 were Indigenous Protected Areas and 1992 were privately owned. However the privately owned areas covered only 0.3% of Australia’s area while the Indigenous Protected Areas covered 1.9% (Endnote 2).

Category VI areas showed the largest area increase between 2000 and 2006, with 13.5 million hectares of new protected area. This increase was equivalent to almost 1.8% of Australia’s total area. Category II areas also showed a substantial increase between 2000 and 2006, of 12.2 million hectares, about 1.6% of Australia’s total area. The majority of this increase (6.4 million hectares) occurred between 2004 and 2006.

THREATENED FAUNA SPECIES
Graph: Threatened fauna species
(a) Includes the category ‘extinct in the wild’.
Note: The category ‘conservation dependent’ is not shown since figures are too small to show. There were 0 conservation dependent species on the threatened fauna list in 2000 and 3 in 2009.
Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, EPBC Act List of Threatened Fauna,
<http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=fauna>, viewed Sep 2009.


The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened species into six categories: extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and conservation dependent.

At the commencement of the EPBC Act in 2000, the list of threatened fauna consisted only of those previously listed under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992. Since that time, more species have been added to the list.

Since the introduction of the EPBC Act, the number of threatened fauna has risen by 35%, from 315 to 426 in 2009. In 2009, almost half (47%) the species on the list were vulnerable, 40% were endangered or critically endangered, and 13% were extinct or extinct in the wild.

Together, birds and mammals accounted for the majority of vulnerable and endangered species, and almost half the extinct species were mammals.

It is important to note that changes to the threatened species list since 1990 may reflect taxonomic revisions, curation of collections, data-basing information and field investigations and do not necessarily represent a change in the conservation status of the fauna.


LIST OF THREATENED FAUNA, 2009

CategoryFauna type and number

ExtinctFrogs (4)
Birds (23)
Mammals (27)
Other animals (1)
Extinct in the wildFishes (1)
Critically endangeredFishes (3)
Frogs (2)
Reptiles (2)
Birds (6)
Mammals (4)
Other animals (19)
EndangeredFishes (16)
Frogs (14)
Reptiles (14)
Birds (41)
Mammals (35)
Other animals (14)
VulnerableFishes (25)
Frogs (12)
Reptiles (38)
Birds (61)
Mammals (54)
Other animals (7)
Conservation dependentFishes (3)
TotalFauna (426)

Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, EPBC Act List of Threatened Fauna, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=fauna>, last viewed September 2009.

THREATENED FLORA SPECIES
Graph: Threatened flora species
Note: The categories 'extinct in the wild' and ‘conservation dependent’ are not shown since 0 species fell into these categories in 2000 or 2009.
Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora>, last viewed September 2009.


The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened species into six categories: extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and conservation dependent.

Since the commencement of the EPBC Act, the number of listed threatened flora has risen by 15%, from 1,147 in 2000 to 1,324 in September 2009. In 2009, there were 24 eucalypt species listed as endangered and 49 listed as vulnerable. Two species of wattle were listed as extinct, three as critically endangered, 29 as endangered and 44 as vulnerable.

Variations to the list under the EPBC Act can be made by the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts following consideration of their conservation status by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (Endnote 3). Thus, changes need to be treated cautiously. Species can be removed or added because of improved knowledge or sometimes new species are discovered, or those thought to be extinct are rediscovered.

To assist the conservation of listed threatened species, the EPBC Act provides for the identification of key threatening processes, the registration of threatened ecological communities and the creation of recovery plans and threat abatement plans (Endnote 3).

LIST OF THREATENED FLORA, 2009

CategoryNumber

Extinct48
Extinct in the wild0
Critically endangered89
Endangered523
Vulnerable664
Conservation dependent0
Total1 324

Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora>, last viewed September 2009.

THREATENED ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES
Graph: Threatened ecological communities
Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), EPBC Act List of Threatened Ecological Communities, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publiclookupcommunities.pl>, last viewed Sep 2009.


Another measure of environmental condition includes recording the number of ecological communities (Endnote 4) threatened with extinction. Scientific committees examine the case for listing ecological communities. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) (EPBC Act) classifies listed threatened communities into three categories: critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable.

The listed communities are not necessarily the only ones in danger of extinction. To be listed a community must undergo significant investigation and survey work as part of the assessment of the scientific committee, but it is likely that other communities are also under threat of extinction.

The number of threatened communities rose from 21 in 2000 to 46 in 2009. However, these increases may reflect improved information and field investigations and do not necessarily represent a change in conservation status of ecological communities. Of those listed as critically endangered three are in New South Wales, two in Queensland, three in South Australia, three in Victoria and one in Tasmania. Of those listed as endangered five are in New South Wales, one each in Victoria and Queensland and 16 in Western Australia. The only community listed as vulnerable is in Tasmania. Additionally, seven endangered communities and three critically endangered communities cross state borders.

LIST OF THREATENED ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES, 2009

CategoryNumber

Critically endangered15
Endangered30
Vulnerable1
Total46

Source: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, EPBC Act List of Threatened Ecological Communities, <http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publiclookupcommunities.pl>, last viewed September 2009.


The EPBC Act protects Australia's native species and ecological communities by providing for (Endnote 5):
  • identification and listing of species and ecological communities as threatened
  • development of conservation advice and recovery plans for listed species
  • recognition of key threatening processes, and
  • where appropriate, reducing the impacts of these processes through threat abatement plans.


ENDNOTES

1. IUCN, 2000, Application of IUCN Protected Area Management Categories: Draft Australian Handbook.
2. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Ownership of protected areas, <http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/nrs/about/ownership.html>, last viewed October 2009.
3. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Threatened Species Scientific Committee, <http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/committee.html>, last viewed November 2009.
4. Unique and naturally occurring groups of plants and animals.
5. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Biodiversity conservation, <http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/protect/biodiversity.html>, last viewed November 2009.

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