Key systems unprotected
Experts say that over 1,500 of Australia’s unique ecosystems, on land and sea, fall outside Australia’s protected areas.
At the same time, the UN Biodiversity Conference is seeking to finalise an important agreement to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet's land and oceans by 2030.
WWF’s Building Nature’s Safety Net 2020 report details the 1,542 terrestrial ecosystems and 115 marine ecosystems that are not represented in any of Australia’s protected areas.
Rachel Lowry, WWF-Australia’s chief conservation officer, says these protected area gaps are a compelling reason for Australia to support the UN’s protection targets.
“The Australian Government should commit to a global and domestic target to protect 30 per cent of land and 30 per cent of oceans by 2030,” Ms Lowry said.
So far, Australia is supporting the global ‘30 by 30’ goal but has only publicly committed to protecting a ‘combined’ 30 per cent of domestic land and ocean by 2030.
“Australia is a prosperous nation with the means to meet the full target. Supporting an international target yet failing to commit to it domestically is a double standard. It risks putting pressure on less wealthy nations while declining to do what is right at home,” Ms Lowry said.
“Nations such as the UK, US and Canada have all made commitments to protect 30 per cent of both land and sea.
“More than 36 per cent of Australia’s oceans and 19 per cent of land are currently protected. Australia is falling behind other nations on land protection.
“However, if we pay attention to the science about where protection is needed most, and back this with the right political will, Australia is well placed to meet the global protection expectations on land by 2030,” she said.
The WWF report highlights the importance of ensuring adequate protection of all bioregions, revealing that 58 terrestrial bioregions and 20 marine bioregions are below the target of 30 per cent protected.
Under-protected bioregions are home to threatened species such as the koala and greater glider.
“Protected areas should be ecologically representative, well-connected, and effectively and equitably managed,” Ms Lowry says.
“It is not only how much we protect but what gets protected that will be critical if we are to save Australia’s threatened species.
“Indigenous Protected Areas play an important role in conserving biodiversity and funding for IPAs should be boosted.”