September is National Biodiversity Month which means it is time to celebrate plants and animals.
Biodiversity is the variety of all living things around us. Australia’s biodiversity is rich and unique, it is home to more than 500,000 animal and plant species, many of which are found nowhere else – making Australia one of the world’s ‘megadiverse’ countries. Native vegetation is a vital component of our nation’s biodiversity with most of our plant species endemic to the continent.
The World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Program has identified 16 other megadiverse countries: Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, United States, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Venezuela. Being a developed nation, we have an extra special responsibility to take care of our native species.
The 7 September marks another important date – Threatened Species Day, which commemorates the death of the last Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936. Although Australia’s biodiversity is extraordinary, many ecological communities are declining and risk extinction, much like the Tasmanian tiger.
There are over 100 threatened ecological communities recognised in New South Wales – all but four are primarily made up of plant species.
For over 45 years, the National Trust’s Bushland Management Services has continuously worked on technical natural area restoration projects across Greater Sydney that involve many endangered and critically endangered ecological communities, to name a few:
Duffy’s Forest, Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin, Bargo bush, Cumberland Plain Shale Woodlands and Shale-Gravel Transition Forest, Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub of the Sydney Region, Turpentine – Ironbark Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion, Castlereagh Scribbly Gum and Agnes Banks Woodlands of the Sydney Basin Bioregion, Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest of the Sydney Basin Bioregion, River-Flat Eucalypt Forest on coastal floodplains, Littoral Rainforest communities, Sydney Freshwater Wetlands and Coastal Sand Dunes.
What is a critically endangered ecological community?
An ecological community is a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms living and interacting in a unique location. These communities are complex and can easily become at risk due to a number of reasons, such as disruption of ecological processes, habitat degradation or invasion by exotic species. One of the biggest challenges facing our biodiversity is invasive species. The introduction of weeds in natural areas is ranked high amongst environmental threats now facing our ecosystems. The impact can cost the Australian economy billions each year.
Protecting native communities supports ecosystem services such as clean air and clean water, which contribute to better productivity of our land, which benefits people and the economy.
As a nation, we have a responsibility to identify and manage ecological communities to prevent species from becoming threated. The NSW Government will list a community as critically endangered if they determine it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in Australia in the immediate future. The extinction risk is assessed by the ‘NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee’ against criteria relating to the state and change of geographic distribution and reduction in ecological function. A threatened ecological community will be listed as either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
Saving our species
We are proud of the work we have achieved to help protect and preserve ecological communities for the future in partnership with our clients. Bushland Management Services remains dedicated to working in the front line and increasing community awareness for as long as there continues to be a threat to Australia’s biodiversity.
Biodiversity Month is an important time to reflect on all the species we’ve lost and come together to protect what remains. We can all help to protect biodiversity so future generations can enjoy it too.
A few small ways to make a difference:
- Plant natives in your gardens and incorporate natural landscape elements like rocks and ponds to attract native animals.
- Pick up litter when out and about.
- Get involved in community initiatives.
- Donate your time. Volunteer with Bushland Management Services in Greater Sydney and be guided by expert supervisors and get trained to identify native species while undertaking essential regeneration works.