LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Often when we think of the arid environment that surrounds us we get a mental picture of rugged mountains, vast skies, scrubby vegetation and dry riverbeds … the environment is vast, all-encompassing and sometimes seems infallible.
However on closer inspection this vast environment is actually a complex system of a myriad of life forms that are interconnected, in delicate balance, and under increasing pressure for survival.
Australia is world renowned for its unique wildlife and ruggedly beautiful landscapes. But what many people don’t know is that Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinction on Earth.
Since European colonisation, about 10% of Australia’s mammals have become extinct. In fact, almost one-third of the mammals that have become extinct globally in the past 200 years were Australian.
Australia’s landscapes and species have been severely impacted by over 200 years of habitat loss and fragmentation. The impacts of land development, introduced plants and animals, grazing, salinity, changed fire regimes, pollution, and a changing climate all place additional pressure on our threatened species and their shrinking habitats.
Australia’s small arid zone mammals have greatly suffered since European settlement. Some 11 species are extinct, and a further eight are listed as endangered or critically endangered.
The Central Rock-rat (Zyzomys pendunculatus) is one of five species of rock rats, and the only one that lives in the arid zone.
It, together with the Carpentarian Rock-rat (Zyzomys palatalis), is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species).
A Central Land Council monitoring program suggests the common brushtail possum is close to extinction in Central Australia. Among the species also at risk are the Northern Quoll, Golden Bandicoot and the Bilby.
It’s not just our mammals that are in serious trouble. Reptiles, birds, frogs and many other species are also facing uncertain futures as threats increase.
A recent international study into the impacts of climate change on lizards suggests that if current warming continues, 20 per cent of lizard species worldwide could go extinct by 2080. The work suggests that climate change has already caused local extinctions of two lizard species in Australia (one in the Northern Territory) and more look set to follow.
The Australian Government has deemed over 1,600 species and ecological communities threatened and many more are listed under state legislation. Species loss is undoubtedly one of the major biodiversity conservation issues affecting Australia.
However it is not all doom and gloom.
The recent downgrading of the Gouldian Finch from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ on the threatened species list shows that with concerted efforts and targeted programs species numbers can incline. However scientists and conservationists agree that much needs to be urgently done to prevent the next wave of species extinction currently facing Australia.
National Threatened Species Day (NTSD) is held on 7 September each year – commemorating the death of the last Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936. Threatened species are an important component of biodiversity. Once they become extinct they are gone forever.
National Threatened Species Day aims to encourage the community to prevent further extinctions of Australia’s fauna and flora, and to restore healthy numbers of endangered species and ecological communities in the wild. September is also international Biodiversity Month, and biodiversity conservation events and activities are happening in many regions across Australia.
Here in Central Australia, the Arid Lands Environment Centre is organising a Threatened Species Day Community BBQ on September 7th at the Ilparpa Claypans as part of the Biodiversity Matters Program.
The Ilparpa Claypans and surrounding areas are recognised as an area of national botanical significance, and have a range of significant flora and fauna species. The area also has a number of threats including weed infestation, feral pests and rising salinity.
Community members are asked to meet at 4pm at the front gate of the Ilparpa Claypans. From here the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club will be hosting a guided walk through the Intertexta forest. This will be followed by picking up some rubbish and a family community BBQ. Participants are asked to bring gloves, sturdy shoes, garbage bags, a salad to share and non-alcoholic drinks of your choice. Meat and vegetarian options will be provided for the BBQ.
Please RSVP to email@example.com or 89522497. For more information www.biodiversitymatters.org.au
Communications and Campaigns Officer
Arid Lands Environment Centre 89522497