At least 19 of Australia’s ecosystems are showing signs of collapse or are on the verge of collapse, a new study suggests. Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent since white settlement began 200 years ago.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Tuesday, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek was visibly moved. The latest five-year report by a panel of 30 experts on the state of Australia’s environment is a “shocking document”.
The report blamed mining, deforestation, invasive plant and animal species, and climate change as major contributors to various environmental problems facing the fifth continent.
The number of endangered species is increasing
According to scientists, the number of endangered species has risen by eight percent in the last five years alone. The impact of climate change on many ecosystems, both on land and in the sea, has in some cases increased dramatically. According to researchers, the situation has worsened in practically all ecosystems in recent years.
The development of mammals is particularly dramatic. Australia has the saddest record of any continent, having lost 39 of its nearly 400 species of mammals in the more than 200 years since colonization began in 1788.
The koala is affected by deforestation
Australia’s most iconic animal, the koala, is, like many others, affected by habitat loss. According to environmental groups, Australia has the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon. Between 2000 and 2017, about 7.7 million hectares of land were deforested, mostly illegally, the report writes. Criminals usually go unpunished.
Much of the land in the continent’s tropical north is used to breed beef cattle, while koala habitats in the south are falling victim to urban sprawl. Small mammals and birds in particular are eaten by introduced insects, especially foxes and feral domestic cats.
Since the last survey in 2016, 17 other species of mammals, 19 amphibians and 17 bird species have been added to the threatened species list or are considered critically endangered. The koala is now considered highly endangered.
Climate change is worsening the situation
The effects of climate change have contributed significantly to worsening the situation. According to the researchers, the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is changing. Over the past five years, extreme events such as floods, droughts, bushfires, storms and heat waves have affected all parts of Australia. Seasonal fire seasons are getting longer, now lasting up to eight months.
For years, experts have called on Australia, a leading coal exporter, to stop mining the resource, which has been proven to harm the climate, if it wants to bring global temperatures under control.
Political calculation at the expense of the environment
Plibersek blamed “more than a decade of inaction and willful ignorance” by the previous government under former prime minister Scott Morrison. Morrison has had the report since last year, but withheld publication ahead of the latest election.
According to analysts, the conservatives’ climate-skepticism and focus on further exploitation of fossil resources helped them lose power to the Social-Democratic Labor Party at the end of May. Shortly after taking office, new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese increased Australia’s climate protection targets.
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