Protected areas are the best available means to ensure the recovery and survival of our threatened native animals and plants.
WWF - Australia
Protected areas conserve the healthy ecosystems that sustain human life. Our food and water, our agricultural industries and much of our infrastructure all rely on healthy functioning ecosystems.
CSIRO has estimated the value of Australia's ecosystems, its air, water, forests, flora and fauna at more than $1,300 billion per year.
For example, protected wetlands and water catchments purify the water we drink. Forests and plant life filter and oxygenate the air we breathe, native vegetation helps protect against floods and soil erosion. Healthy functioning ecosystems help plant pollination and seed dispersal. Healthy ecosystems also help maintain our biodiversity: the genetic diversity and resilience of our flora, fauna and micro-organisms.
Since European settlement, landclearing, grazing, urban development, changed fire regimes, agriculture and irrigation have all impacted on our ecosystems. Human activity has fragmented the habitats of our native plants and animals. The introduction of invasive weeds and animal predators has compounded the challenges. There has been a dramatic decline in the number and distribution of our native species and in some cases, extinction.
The National Reserve System, with its network of protected areas, is conserving our biodiversity and protecting our ecosystems. These protected areas are managed to reduce threats such as wildfire, weeds and feral animals. The reserve system is building more resilient landscapes that will provide refuges and wildlife corridors for plants and animals to adapt as climate change alters their existing habitat.
Protected areas are not locked away or isolated, but are a valued part of our land use. They provide a range of social, economic and scientific benefits, from healthy outdoor activities to new eco-tourism businesses for regional economies.
- Case study: Mornington Sanctuary
- Case study: Bush Family Reserve
- Strategy for Australia's National Reserve System 2009-2030