Why is biodiversity conservation important in NSW?

Almost 1000 native plants and animals are currently facing extinction in NSW, which is part of a broader extinction crisis across Australia and the world.

In his film, A Life on Our Planet, the incomparable broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough makes his witness statement and sets out his vision for the future. In his witness statement, he says:

The true tragedy of our time is still unfolding across the globe, barely noticeable from day to day. I’m talking about the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity. The living world is a unique and spectacular marvel. Billions of individuals, and millions of kinds of plants and animals, dazzling in their variety and richness. Working together to benefit from the energy of the sun and the minerals of the earth. Leading lives that interlock in such a way that they sustain each other. We rely entirely on this finely tuned life-support machine. And it relies on its biodiversity to run smoothly. Yet the way we humans live on Earth now is sending biodiversity into a decline.

The natural world is fading. The evidence is all around. It’s happened in my lifetime.

We are facing nothing less than the collapse of the living world. The very thing that gave birth to our civilization. The thing we rely upon for every element of the lives we lead. No one wants this to happen. None of us can afford for it to happen. So, what do we do? It’s quite straightforward. It’s been staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis we have created. We must rewild the world.

In his optimistic vision for the future, he says:

Nature is our biggest ally and our greatest inspiration. We just have to do what nature has always done. It worked out the secret of life long ago. In this world, a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives, too. We can solve the problems we now face by embracing this reality. If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us. 

There’s a chance for us to make amends, to complete our journey of development, manage our impact, and once again become a species in balance with nature. All we need is the will to do so. We now have the opportunity to create the perfect home for ourselves, and restore the rich, healthy, and wonderful world that we inherited. Just imagine that.

While some progress has been made in NSW by establishing many public and private protected areas, and through innovative programs such as Saving our Species, we still need to do much more to conserve and protect our unique biodiversity, for four key reasons:

  1. There are many species still at risk of extinction: There are 932 plants, animals, algae and fungi that have been scientifically assessed as being at risk of extinction and listed as threatened under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Of these, 526 are listed as endangered or critically endangered. There are 110 threatened ecological communities in NSW, of which 21 are critically endangered. We need more areas managed for conservation to see these species become secure in the wild in the long term. Find out more about NSW’s threatened biodiversity here.

  1. Native vegetation loss still threatens landscape viability: There are unique landscapes in NSW, known as Mitchell Landscapes. Over-cleared landscapes are defined as those with less than 30 per cent of their original extent remaining. Science has demonstrated that over-cleared landscapes will struggle and eventually fail to support agriculture or nature. These landscapes need to be protected and managed for conservation, and some may need to be restored to support viable ecosystems in nature in the long term.

  1. Major threats to biodiversity exist even in natural areas: There are many threats to our natural ecosystems, even where these haven’t been cleared for agriculture, urban areas or other development. The key pressures of habitat clearing and fragmentation, invasive species, and climate change remain the main pressures that threaten listed species and ecological communities, and biodiversity in general. So, we don’t just need remnant native vegetation left in the landscape; we also need conservation areas that are actively managed to eliminate or reduce the impacts of these threats to our plants, animals and ecosystems.

  1. Our reserves still do not represent the full suite of our diverse landscapes: Australia’s Strategy for the National Reserve System guides the development of the National Reserve System. The strategy establishes quantitative targets for comprehensiveness and representativeness. NSW is committed to building a comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR) national system of protected areas. Only one of NSW’s 18 bioregions, the Australian Alps, has met C and R targets, and the South East Corner bioregion is the only other to have met R targets across its three subregions. According to the draft NSW National Parks System Directions Statement, we still need to protect examples of 335 NSW Landscapes in public or private protected areas to meet R targets in NSW. The NSW Government has set a target for the BCT to sample 120 under-represented NSW Landscapes in conservation agreements with private landholders by 2038. See our progress here.

Find out more about the role of private land conservation in NSW.