Exploring Australia's Threatened Species

Challenges and Solutions to Protect Our Unique Biodiversity

Australia is known for its unique and diverse wildlife. However, did you know that many of these incredible species are currently under threat?

In fact, Australia holds the unenviable position of leading the world in mammal extinctions, with a staggering 87% of its mammals found nowhere else on Earth. Therefore, safeguarding our unique wildlife is a very important task.

With this purpose in mind, there are numerous actions we can take to prevent more animals from joining the extinction list. In this article, we’ll delve into what defines a “threatened” species, the primary dangers they face and how you can contribute to their conservation.

What is a Threatened Species?

A species is considered “threatened” if it meets one or more of these criteria:

Reduced Population Size: A significant reduction in a species’ numbers, often resulting from factors like habitat loss or disease.

Restricted Geographical Distribution: Species with limited habitats are at risk because they’re more susceptible to threats affecting their small ranges.

Few Mature Individuals: A limited number of mature individuals pose challenges to reproduction and genetic diversity, increasing their risk of extinction.

 

Koala, Endangered Mammal Species (EPBC Act)

Key Threats to Australia’s Wildlife

Australia’s endangered species face their greatest challenges from:

Invasive Species: Non-native species disrupt ecosystems, displacing and competing with native species and their habitats. This is the number one threat affecting 82% of all threatened species.

Ecosystem Alterations: Changes to the natural landscape result in habitat loss, fragmentation, or degradation, affecting 74% of listed species. This includes modified fire regimes, which leave species without a suitable habitat.

Agricultural Activities: A pressing concern for 57% of listed species, especially plants, which are most vulnerable in areas where farming and urban development have made big changes to landscapes and land use.

Climate Change: The changing climate poses a significant threat to species by affecting their habitats and food sources.

 

Categories of Threatened Species

Threatened species are categorised at various spatial scales. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains the global ‘Red List.’ while the EPBC Act lists species nationally, with states and territories maintaining jurisdiction-specific lists.

Species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) are classified as:

  • Extinct: No longer in existence.
  • Extinct in the Wild: Surviving only in captivity or managed populations.
  • Critically Endangered: Extremely high risk of extinction.
  • Endangered: High risk of extinction.
  • Vulnerable: At risk of becoming endangered if threats persist.
  • Conservation Dependent: Require active management to prevent becoming vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

 

 

Australia’s Disturbing Threatened Species Status

Australia’s unique biodiversity faces alarming challenges: 

  • Since European arrival, 104 Australian species have vanished under national environmental law, more than almost anywhere else on the planet.
  • Over 1,910 species are listed as threatened under the EPBC Act, increasing by an average of 8% since 2016.
  • As of June 2021, nationally 533 animal and 1,385 plant species were listed under the EPBC Act, with over half classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered.
  • Australia has the highest terrestrial mammal extinction rate globally, with 10% of all endemic species (animals that only live in Australia) lost in the last two centuries.
  • Astonishingly, more plant species than animal species are threatened under national, state, and territory legislation.

 

Greater Glider, Endangered Mammal Species (EPBC Act) – Photo by Mark Cairns

How Can You Help?

Now that you understand the challenges faced by Australia’s threatened species, here’s how you can make a difference:

Join Backyard Buddies: Learn more about your local species and discover actionable steps to protect them. Every small effort counts and Backyard Buddies is a fantastic way to get involved.

Donate to Growing Parks: Did you know you can donate to acquire land for expanding our national parks and ensuring the perpetual protection of animal and plant species?

Plant trees: Support initiatives aimed at habitat restoration to safeguard our precious biodiversity. Donations can contribute to tree planting in fire-affected areas and threatened ecological communities.

 

On Threatened Species Day, let us all pledge to play our part in conserving Australia’s unique and irreplaceable wildlife. By understanding the issues, spreading awareness and taking concrete actions, we can make a difference in the fight to protect these incredible species for generations to come.