Does the conservation and protection of Australia’s iconic coastal landscapes matter?
Islands make up almost 40% of Australia’s coastline. The length of coastline formed by Australia’s islands, is longer than the combined mainland coastline of the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia (1). However, relative to the mainland coast, islands receive only tiny amounts of investment in coastal management and protection.
Does the social and economic prosperity of Australia’s regional communities matter?
Islands are the foundation of an estimated $13 Billion dollar eco-tourism industry. Islands, such as:
- Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
- Lord Howe Island
- the burgeoning enterprises by Traditional Owners in northern Australia including the Torres Strait
- Rottnest Island, Perth’s nature based recreation hub
- Tasmania, the State of Islands
- Majestic Port Phillip and Kangaroo Islands.
Many, if not most of these islands, are within protected areas, however Australia spends a fraction on managing and conserving these assets compared to other developed countries (2). These critical assets form a key foundation of our tourism industry but simply aren’t being valued and maintained appropriately, despite the wonderful efforts of many island communities.
Does the conservation of Australia’s biological diversity matter?
It is likely that the vast majority of the 8,300 islands within Australia are directly relevant to one or more Matters of National Environmental Significance (3). Indeed, islands are critical habitat for 31% of Australia’s critically endangered and endangered fauna, and for 37% of the vulnerable fauna, including many endemics.
Overall, 111 threatened fauna species occur on Australia’s islands, out of a national total of 325 (35%) (4). There are wonderful, but as yet unrealised opportunities to use Australia’s islands as ‘Arks’ to protect Australia’s biological diversity.
Are we ready to hit big targets for biodiversity conservation in Australia?
Threats to island biodiversity from non-indigenous species have been extensively documented and remain among the most powerful drivers of extinctions. Eradication of non-indigenous species from islands is possible and is becoming increasingly costs effective. And of course, once eradicated, they can be excluded forever with minimal ongoing investment. Combined with a National Island Biosecurity Initiative these efforts would lay the foundations for effective island biosecurity.
We could protect globally significant populations of migratory species and play a major role in preventing the extinction of more than 100 threatened species and ecosystems (3).
References and further reading
(1) Geosciences Australia; Australia’s Coastline
(2) Senate Standing Committees on Environment, Communications and the Arts Inquiry into Australia’s national parks, conservation reserves and marine protected areas
(3) Island arks: the need for an Australian national island biosecurity initiative
(4) Species Profile and Threats Database