Australian ecosystems face collapse unless urgent action is taken

Dead tree

Contributed from Queensland

In a ground-breaking report just released, 38 scientists and 29 universities have warned that 19 ecosystems are collapsing due to human impact. They say that unless urgent action is taken, they will be lost.

Included in the list are coral reefs, arid outback deserts, tropical savanna, the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin, mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and forests stretching from the rain forests of the far north to Gondwana-era conifers in Tasmania.

Spinifex desert covers 20 percent of Australia’s land mass

The threat extends to heritage-listed Macquarie Island and moss beds in the east Antarctic.

The study’s lead author, Dr Dana Bergstrom from the Australian Antarctic Division, said 19 out of 20 ecosystems examined were experiencing potentially irreversible environmental changes, including the loss of species and the ability to perform important functions such as pollination.

She went on to explain that the collapse is bring caused by multiple pressures, rising temperatures, heatwaves, fires, and storms, loss of habitat, and the introduction of invasive species.

On a positive note, the report says that these ecosystems can still be saved, if there is a will to do so.

Prof Euan Ritchie, from Deakin University says that tropical savannas, for example, can be saved by “improving fire management [and] feral animal and weed control are easily”.

Bergstrom adds, that “climate change is here, and collapse is coming”.

“Protecting these iconic ecosystems is not just for the animals and plants that live there. Our economic livelihoods, and ultimately our survival, are intimately connected to the natural world,” she adds.

The repot has been published at a time when the Australian government faces increasing criticism over environmental policy failure, which puts it out of step with rising public opinion.

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