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It is hard to find a country more famous for its iconic species than Australia. When you think of Australia your mind immediately jumps to kangaroos hopping through the outback, koalas chilling in trees chewing eucalyptus leaves, or the bizarre merge of a duck and a beaver that is the platypus. This is no coincidence; these species exist nowhere else in the world. They are endemic. In fact, this goes for 69% of the mammals, 46% of the birds, 94% of the amphibians and 93% of the reptiles that inhabit Australia.
The platypus and the echidna are the only monotreme species left in the world, meaning they are mammals that lay eggs. These are all incredibly special creatures, and the flora in Australia is no different. The Australian bush is known for its whopping 24,000 species of native plants, making the country’s flora one of its most prized assets. What this goes to show is that in Australia, the biodiversity and the species that exist there are very important to protect, because if they are lost in Australia, they will be extinct. It adds another layer of essentiality to protecting and restoring their habitats.
In the last few decades, this habitat protection hasn’t happened enough. Land degradation has happened for a huge number of reasons and habitat loss has become an enormous problem for species in Australia. Additionally, this country has experienced catastrophic wildfires in recent years. The 2020 New South Wales fire was all over the news globally, and stories of the affected animals were everywhere. These horrifying images really depicted what effect the onslaught of climate change is having in some of the warmer regions in the world. Socially, many people lost their homes and were terribly affected by these fires, and biodiversity wise the fires were disastrous.
One animal, arguably the most iconic for Australia, has been affected so badly that a New South Wales inquiry in 2020 found that it would be extinct in the state by 2050 unless urgent action is taken. The animal is the Koala. The Australian government has officially listed the Koala as endangered following a huge decline in the species numbers since bushfires and land clearing have significantly shrunk its habitat. This news isn’t completely new. The Koala populations in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland have been listed as vulnerable since 2012 and have since suffered a further decline.
Although this may sound very doom and gloom, what it highlights is that restoring the Koala and many other native species’ habitats is essential and it needs to be done now. Koalas being on the endangered list is shocking and alarming but also highlights the importance of protecting them and taking action to make sure they are not extinct.
Reforestation efforts in Australia can make a significant difference and turn the tide on the degradation that has happened in the past. There are significant hectares to be restored and that provides opportunities to take action. At Land Life, we are always trying to replicate what was there, so we recreate the original ecosystem. We focus on the canopy species and the mid-story species and some of the shrubs, and then we try to plant what was there originally. In Australia, the bush is very well studied which is a huge advantage as we know what should exist where, meaning there is no excuse for planting the wrong species in the wrong spot, and we don’t.
All is not lost, but it is imperative to restore and protect immediately. Land Life is working hard to bring back the habitats for many of Australia’s iconic species and ensure that the onslaught of climate change is kept to a minimum. There is a long way to go and a lot of trees to plant, and we look forward to planting them.