An Australian government report has shown that unique plants and animals are at greater risk than ever before due to wildfires, drought, human activities and a warming climate.
A scientific report paints a grim picture of the country’s significant wildlife damage: Australia’s average global temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Celsius since the early 20th century as warming accelerated the extinction of plants and animals.
Environment Minister Tanya Pliebersek called the report’s findings “shocking” and said “they tell the story of the crisis and environmental degradation in Australia”.
According to the main findings of the report, the 2019-2020 fires destroyed more than eight million hectares of vegetation and killed or displaced between one and three billion animals in the country.
In addition, ocean heatwaves caused severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral reefs in 2016, 2017 and 2020, since then a government report released in March concluded that coral reefs were once again hit by a massive bleaching wave.
Since 1990, millions of hectares of virgin forests have been destroyed.
The same fate befell more than seven million hectares of endangered species habitat between 2000 and 2017, according to the report.
In five years, more than 200 plant and animal species of national importance have been added to the list of endangered species under Australian conservation legislation.
The report notes that “Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent” as the number of new species classified as endangered increased by 8% in five years.
Australian cities are growing at a rapid pace, leading to increased heat, pollution and urban waste, and putting pressure on water and energy resources, according to the report.
“Sydney has lost over 70 percent of its original plants due to urban development,” the report said.
“The findings of this report are heartbreaking and the leadership failures that have led to losses of this magnitude are devastating,” said Rachel Lowry, Acting CEO of WWF Australia.
“If we ignore the warnings in this report, well-known species such as the koala in eastern Australia will disappear forever,” she warned.
According to WWF, the report should be a “turning point” that will lead to more investment and tougher laws to protect Australia’s wildlife.
The country is particularly affected by climate change, as it is regularly subjected to droughts and devastating wildfires, as well as frequent and increasingly dangerous floods.