The value of Australia’s biodiversity is difficult to measure, but biodiversity is a key part of Australia’s national identity, and is integral to subsistence and cultural activity for Indigenous Australians. It is also fundamentally important to environmental services that support human health and wellbeing, and economically important to a wide range of industries (e.g. tourism, agriculture, pharmaceuticals).
This report demonstrates that Australia’s biodiversity is under increased threat and has, overall, continued to decline. All levels of Australian government have enacted legislation to protect biodiversity, and Australia has made good progress in increasing the extent of the National Reserve System since 2011, driven by growth in Indigenous Protected Areas. We now have more than 17 per cent of our terrestrial land and 36 per cent of our marine area under some form of protection. Some individual measures to conserve biodiversity are having success, and many local and regional examples show successful recovery of threatened species, eradication or control of invasive species, or improvements in habitat quality or extent.
However, many species and communities suffer from the cumulative impacts of multiple pressures. Most jurisdictions consider the status of threatened species to be poor and the trend to be declining. Invasive species, particularly feral animals, are unequivocally increasing the pressure they exert on Australia’s biodiversity, and habitat fragmentation and degradation continue in many areas. The impacts of climate change are increasing. Key reports on the state and trends of mammals in 2014 and birds in 2015, supported by citizen-science efforts, have vastly improved our understanding of these 2 taxa. However, even for these relatively well-known Australian animals, monitoring data are often inadequate to robustly assess state and trends. The lack of data is more pronounced for plants, amphibians and reptiles, and even more so for cryptic taxa such as freshwater fish, invertebrates and fungi, for which very little information is available to assess state and trends.
Australia is unable to measure the effectiveness of most of our investments in biodiversity management or management of pressures. The outcomes of management actions are rarely monitored and reported for long enough to clearly demonstrate effectiveness.
The outlook for Australian biodiversity is generally poor, given the current overall poor status, deteriorating trends and increasing pressures. Our current investments in biodiversity management are not keeping pace with the scale and magnitude of current pressures. Resources for managing biodiversity and for limiting the impact of key pressures mostly appear inadequate to arrest the declining status of many species. Biodiversity and broader conservation management will require major reinvestments across long timeframes to reverse deteriorating trends.