Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

2010
Five images - Yirralka Ranger; Castle Hill in Townsville; Wet Tropics of Queensland; Bore site near Jimbour; Wet Tropics of Queensland

Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030

Prepared by the National Biodiversity Strategy Review Task Group convened under the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, October 2010

Executive summary

Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030 (referred to as 'the Strategy') is a guiding framework for conserving our nation's biodiversity over the coming decades.

The vision of this Strategy is that Australia's biodiversity is healthy and resilient to threats, and valued both in its own right and for its essential contribution to our existence.

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all life forms. There are three levels of biodiversity:

  • genetic diversity—the variety of genetic information contained in individual plants, animals and micro-organisms
  • species diversity—the variety of species
  • ecosystem diversity—the variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological processes.

Biodiversity occurs in all environments on Earth - terrestrial, aquatic and marine.

Biodiversity is not static; it is constantly changing. It can be increased by genetic change and evolutionary processes, and it can be reduced by threats which lead to population decline and extinction. Biodiversity in Australia is currently declining because of the impacts of a range of threats.

Conserving biodiversity is an essential part of safeguarding the biological life support systems on Earth. All living creatures, including humans, depend on these life support systems for the necessities of life. For example, we need oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink, fertile soil for food production and physical materials for shelter and fuel. These necessities can be described collectively as ecosystem services. They are fundamental to our physical, social, cultural and economic well-being.

Ecosystem services are produced by the functions that occur in healthy ecosystems. These functions are supported by biodiversity and its attributes, including the number of individuals and species, and their relative abundance, composition and interactions (see Figure 2, page 19). Ecosystem services can be divided into four groups:

  • provisioning services (e.g. food, fibre, fuel, fresh water)
  • cultural services (e.g. spiritual values, recreation and aesthetic values, knowledge systems)
  • supporting services (e.g. primary production, habitat provision, nutrient cycling, atmospheric oxygen production, soil formation and retention)
  • regulating services (e.g. pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, pest and disease regulation, water purification).

Ecosystem resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to changes and disturbances, yet retain its basic functions and structures. The resilience of ecosystems in Australia is currently being reduced by a number of threats, including:

  • habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation
  • invasive species
  • unsustainable use and management of natural resources
  • changes to the aquatic environment and water flows
  • changing fire regimes
  • climate change.

For ecosystems to be resilient to these and other threats, they need a healthy diversity of individuals, species and populations.

The Strategy is a guiding framework for biodiversity conservation over the coming decades for all sectors - government, business and the community. The Strategy sets out priorities which will direct our efforts to achieve healthy and resilient biodiversity and provide us with a basis for living sustainably.

This Strategy is divided into three sections:

  • Setting the context
  • Priorities for action
  • Implementation and action.

The Setting the context section describes the crisis of biodiversity decline that we face, and outlines why we must change our current practices and adopt more sustainable economies and lifestyles. It also outlines developments from Australia's first biodiversity conservation strategy in 1996, The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity (DEST 1996), to the present.

The Priorities for action section identifies three national priorities for action to help stop the decline in Australia's biodiversity. These priorities for action are:

  1. Engaging all Australians in biodiversity conservation through:
    • mainstreaming biodiversity
    • increasing Indigenous engagement
    • enhancing strategic investments and partnerships.
  2. Building ecosystem resilience in a changing climate by:
    • protecting diversity
    • maintaining and re.establishing ecosystem functions
    • reducing threats to biodiversity.
  3. Getting measurable results through:
    • improving and sharing knowledge
    • delivering conservation initiatives efficiently
    • implementing robust national monitoring, reporting and evaluation.

Each of the priorities for action is supported by subpriorities, outcomes, measurable targets and actions which collectively provide a strategic focus for our efforts.

The Implementation and action section provides detail on implementation and identifies a series of actions that will help to achieve our outcomes and targets. These actions will be variously carried out at national, state, regional and local levels. The actions are an indicative set, acknowledging that as we progress our biodiversity conservation efforts, we will need to adapt our approaches and develop new actions to help achieve our outcomes and targets. The section also sets out arrangements for monitoring and reporting on implementation of the Strategy, and evaluating the effectiveness of our efforts.

The Strategy functions as a policy 'umbrella' over other more specific national frameworks. These include:

  • Australia's Native Vegetation Framework (SCEW 2012)
  • The Australian Weeds Strategy (NRMMC 2007a)
  • Australian Pest Animal Strategy (NRMMC 2007b)
  • Australia's Strategy for the National Reserve System 2009-2030 (National Reserve System Task Group 2009).

It is also a guiding policy framework for the diverse mix of Australian, state, territory and local government and private sector approaches to biodiversity conservation.

Implementing this Strategy will involve updating existing programs and setting clear priorities for new investment to fill gaps and address emerging issues. Success will require increased integration of efforts within and between governments and between the public and private sectors. With this in mind, the first priority for action highlights the importance of engaging the private sector in conserving biodiversity and working with stakeholders who may be adversely affected by change.

The Strategy contains 10 interim national targets for the first five years. All governments will continue to work in the early years of the Strategy to evaluate the suitability of these targets for progressing implementation to meet the three priorities for action.

The 10 national targets are as follows:

  1. By 2015, achieve a 25% increase in the number of Australians and public and private organisations who participate in biodiversity conservation activities.
  2. By 2015, achieve a 25% increase in employment and participation of Indigenous peoples in biodiversity conservation.
  3. By 2015, achieve a doubling of the value of complementary markets for ecosystem services.
  4. By 2015, achieve a national increase of 600,000 km2 of native habitat managed primarily for biodiversity conservation across terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments.
  5. By 2015, 1,000 km2 of fragmented landscapes and aquatic systems are being restored to improve ecological connectivity.
  6. By 2015, four collaborative continental-scale linkages are established and managed to improve ecological connectivity.
  7. By 2015, reduce by at least 10% the impacts of invasive species on threatened species and ecological communities in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments.
  8. By 2015, nationally agreed science and knowledge priorities for biodiversity conservation are guiding research activities.
  9. By 2015, all jurisdictions will review relevant legislation, policies and programs to maximise alignment with Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
  10. By 2015, establish a national long-term biodiversity monitoring and reporting system.

Photo credits: Yirralka Ranger, Dukpirri Marawili removing a ghost net at Yilpara Beach, Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area, Arnhem Land, NT (Photo: Jenifer Rahmoy 2006); View from Castle Hill in Townsville with burn off north of city; Orange-thighed frogs in the Wet Tropics of Queensland (Photo: Mike Trenerry); Bore site near Jimbour, Qld