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Australia’s environment in crisis, report says

MELBOURNE, Australia – Australia’s environment and wildlife face even greater threats than previously thought, according to a new report which the environment minister said painted a “story of crisis and decline”.

“It shows that we are in the midst of a catastrophic environmental decline where we are seeing wildlife populations decline dramatically,” said Brendan Wintle, professor of ecosystem and forest science at the University of Melbourne, who was not involved in the State of the Environment Report released on Tuesday. “It’s really a precursor to an extinction crisis in Australia unless we see transformative change.”

About 200 plant and animal species have been added to the endangered species list since 2016, according to the report, or had their vulnerability status upgraded. Among those moved to the endangered species list: the country’s iconic koala.

Climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and mining have contributed to the problems, according to the report. The document assessed the cumulative impact that years of extreme weather, including droughts and devastating wildfires in the summer of 2019-2020, have had on the country.

Tanya Plibersek, the environment minister, said in a statement ahead of the report’s release that it was “a shocking document – it tells a story of crisis and decline for Australia’s environment”.

“If we continue on the trajectory we are on, the treasured places, landscapes, animals and plants that we think of when we think of home might not be there for our children and grandchildren,” he said. she told reporters on Tuesday.

The koalas were moved to “endangered”, from “vulnerable”, in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory in February. Koala populations were declining in these states due to disease and habitat destruction, exacerbated by the 2019-2020 wildfires. Conservation groups estimate that 60,000 koalas have been killed, injured or affected by the fires.

The greater glider, which resembles a flying squirrel and was once common in national parks, has also been moved to the endangered species list, along with the pink and black cockatoo.

The State of the Environment is a large-scale survey conducted every five years by a group of independent scientists. The report, which was completed last year but not published so far, says that although many factors affecting the environment are the same as in previous reports, their effects have become more intense.

The 2021 report was the first to document in detail the widespread effects of climate change on animals and ecological systems, its authors told local media.

“Climate change in the form of more severe drought, extreme weather events, fires and habitat alterations is becoming a new driver of habitat change and species loss,” the report says. .

The 2019 and 2020 fires increased the risk of extinction for many plants and animals, many of which were already endangered, he said. Extreme heat played a role in the mass fish kills, when more than a million were found dead in the rivers.

The report says that climate change continues to warm and acidify the ocean, and several marine heat waves on the Great Barrier Reef along the country’s northeast coast have been accompanied by significant episodes of coral bleaching. Conditions on the inner reef were ‘approaching a tipping point’ which would cause juvenile corals to decline.

The report also found that investments and a lack of coordination between authorities are insufficient to deal with the growing impact of environmental threats. Public spending on maintaining biodiversity has plummeted as risks have increased, he said.


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