A recent UN-backed report has a startling warning for humanity about the state of our natural systems. All countries must sit up and pay attention, but it’s especially imperative for Australia. Playing host to some of the world’s highest rates of habitat loss from land clearing, and as the world’s driest inhabited continent, Australia’s remaining habitat is also particularly vulnerable to the undeniable impacts of climate change.
The IPBES Global Assessment report confirmed that environmental decline across our planet is now unprecedented, and species extinction rates are accelerating in ways that will threaten the longevity of up to 1 million species within decades.
With many of us living in cities, we may feel disconnected from nature and unable to see how biodiversity affects us in our everyday lives. In actual fact, the delicate balance of our ecosystem must be sustained in order for us to survive. In the same way all animals and plants depend on each other for survival, and have very specific requirements, we too depend on the environment in a whole range of ways.
But how does biodiversity specifically relate to us? Firstly, rising levels of Co2 in the atmosphere is causing unprecedented levels air pollution, which affects our health and if left unattended will fundamentally change our planet forever. We rely on trees, shrubs and grasses for oxygen to breathe, store carbon and clean our air. Biodiverse plantings have the ability to capture and store Co2 on a huge scale.
In addition to this, plants and animals provide us with food. This seems obvious but it’s not just about our meat and vegetables – soil fertility affects wheat and barley crops; providing us with items such as bread and beer. Pollination also allows us to grow things like chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, broad beans and sunflower seeds. Good quality soil can also protect plants during times of droughts, another effect of climate change.
If links are taken out of the chain, biodiversity is compromised. For instance, the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, a flagship species for the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve, is a fussy eater. This beautiful bird only feeds on three types of plant and requires old growth native trees for nesting. The Buloke is currently an endangered species of tree due to extensive land clearing, which in turn affects the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo.
Bank Australia’s Conservation Reserve makes a positive and important contribution towards protecting biodiversity in Victoria, especially for the plant and animal communities and species that live there, that are currently listed as threatened. Through revegetation activities, it also provides a carbon sink (a natural reservoir that stores carbon) while at the same time creating new and diverse natural habitats.
More good news? It’s not too late for us to make a change to impact climate change and biodiversity. By taking steps to invest in projects that enhance or protect biodiversity, being mindful about where our food is coming from, and supporting farms that practice sustainable agriculture, we can protect and enhance our planet’s biodiversity.