Biodiversity Month is held every year in September and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving, and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.
What is biodiversity?
We can break the word down into biological + diversity.
Biological = living things. Diversity = range of differences, or variety.
So, biodiversity is the variety of living things.
Scientists have estimated that there are around 8.7 million species of plants and animals on the planet but only about 1.2 million species have been identified and described so far, which means there are millions of other living things to discover.
Around the world, there are biological hotspots. This is where there are lots of different living things concentrated in one area that is undergoing exceptional loss of habitat (at least 70%). Officially, there are 36 hotspots, two of which are in Australia: Southwest Australia and the forests of eastern Australia.
The biodiversity hotspots in Australia
1. Southwest Australia, also known as the Kwongan
For millions of years, Southwest Australia was isolated from the rest of the continent by vast central deserts, resulting in many unique plant species that are found nowhere else. The hotspot’s forests, woodlands, shrublands and heaths are also home to a wide variety of reptile species.
Today, only 30% of Southwest Australia’s original vegetation remains in more or less pristine condition due, in part, to agricultural expansion.
Among the many amazing species, the Kwongan is home to are:
The Albany pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant, the tiny nectar, and pollen-feeding honey possum, and the termite-eating marsupial called numbat.
2. Forests of East Australia
The forest pockets along the east coast were determined to be a hotspot because they have more than 2,144 plant species found nowhere else and, 77 % of the original habitat has been lost Alongside the tremendous number of unique plant species, there are more than 150 vertebrates – amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, found nowhere else on earth!
Examples include the spectacular rainforest-dwelling Boyd’s Forest Dragon and the Yellow-Spotted Bell Frog. The hotspot is also home to the Critically Endangered Wollemi pine, found in the Blue Mountains’ Wollemi National Park. This species is considered a living fossil.
Why care for biodiversity and what can we do to help?
Extinction of species is happening at a faster rate than ever before but maintaining this variety of life on Earth is vital to supply clean air and water, improve the health of ecosystems, and support human life by providing food and medicines.
Everyone (governments, industries, corporations, communities, and individuals) can help to conserve Australia’s unique biodiversity by shifting our practices to more sustainable ways.
Learning more about the animal and plant species in your backyard and how to build a healthy habitat for them is a good first step to take at home. Go to Backyard Buddies to learn more!