Human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods. Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests account for 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing vital habitats for millions of species and important sources for clean air and water; as well as being crucial for combating climate change.
Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Drought and desertification is also on the rise each year, amounting to the loss of 12 million hectares and affects poor communities globally. Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 percent are extinct and 22 percent are at risk of extinction.
The SDGs aim to conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains by 2020. Halting deforestation is also vital to mitigating the impact of climate change. Urgent action must be taken to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage. Source
Many ecosystems have been lost during the past 200 years. Some of these ecosystems include:
Loss of species is a major threat to biodiversity in Australia. Species of animals and plants under threat may be listed in one of the following categories:
Extinct in the wild
Biodiversity is vital for supporting human life on Earth, supplying clean air and water, healthy ecosystems and fertile soils.
'Biodiversity' or 'biological diversity' is the variety of life on earth and can be thought of in terms of genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Biodiversity includes all the different plants (from lichen and mosses to shrubs and trees), animals (invertebrates, frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals) and micro-organisms such as bacteria.
Biodiversity is vital in supporting human life on Earth. It provides many benefits, including food, medicines and industrial products. It supplies clean air and water, and fertile soils.
Australia is home to more than one million species of plants and animals, many of which are unique. About 82 per cent of our mammals and 93 per cent of our frogs are found nowhere else in the world. Over the last 200 years, the Australian environment has been modified dramatically. Australia has lost 75 per cent of its rainforests and has the world's worst record of mammal extinctions.
Protecting the biodiversity of NSW is a major challenge. It cannot be done just by setting aside land in national parks and reserves; it needs the people of NSW to be involved in community conservation across the landscape. Everyone can do something to help protect our unique biodiversity. Source
Biodiversity is in the eye of the beholder.
For some it is our life support system, for others it is a resource to be used, for others it is a precious cultural symbol. Australians have long had a sense that our biodiversity is special, but despite our sense of its importance, in many parts of our country biodiversity is in trouble.
Values are the lasting beliefs or ideals that will influence a person’s attitude and which serve as broad guidelines for that person’s behaviour.
Understanding biodiversity, and why it matters, is assisted by comprehending the range of distinctive values that individuals and societies may assign to the living world and the ecosystems that it comprises.
It is an indication in itself of the complexity of views about biodiversity, and the variety of interactions with it, that at least five separate categories are necessary to cover all possibilities.
Source CSIRO Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia.
Our planet is undergoing a biodiversity crisis. Globally, at least 16,000 species are threatened with extinction, including 12 per cent of birds, 23 per cent of mammals and 32 per cent of amphibians.
Biologists know what is causing this environmental crisis — human impacts from development, deforestation, pollution and climate change are destroying the homes and habitat of wildlife around the world.
More importantly, scientists and biologists understand that the trend can be reversed.
The greatest threat to biodiversity is the size and rate of growth of human population. Every day, more people need more space, consume more resources and generate more waste as world population continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Human population growth is reducing biodiversity in the following ways:
All forms of food production contribute to a loss of biodiversity to varying degrees, and it is important that impacts on biodiversity are managed effectively. There is no denying that farming practices throughout the 1800s and first half of the 1900s had some detrimental impacts on Australia’s biodiversity. This was mainly due to government-mandated land clearing, in a belief that Australia should be farmed using European methods. Land clearing reduced areas of native vegetation that, coupled with some traditional land management practices, resulted in a decline in biodiversity.
Farmers are best known for growing crops and raising livestock to provide the food and fibre needs for Australian families, but lately, it’s all about the work they do on the farm to look after the environment.
Today, Australian farmers strive to protect, manage and enhance biodiversity on their land. For example, planting native trees and shrubs on their properties can help alleviate problems such as erosion and soil structure decline, making the land more productive as well as increasing biodiversity and providing natural shelter.
Natural Resource Management is everyone’s business. It is the management of the very natural systems which support us to live happy and healthy lives. Industry groups, government and community work together to deliver programs which provide a healthy and productive country, viable communities and sustainable industries.
This means working on ways to reduce our impacts from agriculture, urban development and recreation.
Biodiversity is a priority natural resource management (NRM) issue for farming industries. Farmers nationwide have responded to the challenge of biodiversity conservation by:
Many of Australia’s farmers and community members are active members of Landcare groups, and have been since Landcare’s inception in 1989. Landcare was established by the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation to provide a vision for transformation to ecological sustainability through collective community lead groups.
Initiatives such as Landcare Week are opportunities to recognise the role Australian farmers and the community play as environmental stewards and land managers.
“Today, with support from the federal government, Landcare has grown into an environmental movement. Farmers are Australia’s frontline environmentalists, looking after 61% of Australia’s valuable land resources. After all, farmers have the most to lose if the environment becomes damaged: we simply cannot farm without healthy soils, healthy water resources and healthy air quality.
Farmers know that good environmental outcomes and increased agricultural production go hand in hand, which is why natural resource management is a fundamental activity on Australian farms.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 94% of farmers undertake some form of natural resource management, including planting trees and shrubs, fencing off rivers, streams and gullies to protect regrowth, and restoring wetlands. Australian agriculture has also led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – a massive 40% reduction between 1990 and 2006.
Australian farmers are also investing financially in natural resource management. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the management of soil resources, water resources and biodiversity costs $3.5 billion in Australia annually, around 10% of agriculture’s GDP, and for every government dollar invested, Australian farmers contribute $2.60 in environmental management and protection,” Jock Laurie former president on National Farmers Federation Adapted from an NFF media release For more information, visit the Landcare website: landcareonline.com.au
There is a growing concern in the next generation about the state of the planet they will inherit. Young people are now stepping up to take action on matters that are important to them in terms of the environment, and Landcare is one of those areas they are taking action with.
Intrepid Landcare is a national organisation which empowers the next generation to step up and lead environmental projects in their communities with support of the Landcare movement.
Young people take on different local projects and also mix this with outdoor adventure so that they appreciate the landscape from a sustainable recreation perspective.
Teams of young people are heading out into the wilderness to protect wildlife and improve biodiversity, remove invasive and threatening species, to learn about local and national environmental issues, and simply appreciate the natural world and have fun while doing it!
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