Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all species on earth. It is the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes, and the terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems of which they are a part.
Biodiversity is both essential for our existence and intrinsically valuable in its own right.
This is because biodiversity provides the fundamental building blocks for the many goods and services a healthy environment provides. These include things that are fundamental to our health, like clean air, fresh water and food products, as well as the many other products such as timber and fibre.
Other important services provided by our biodiversity include recreational, cultural and spiritual nourishment that maintain our personal and social wellbeing. Looking after our biodiversity is therefore an important task for all people.
Over the last 200 years Australia has suffered the largest documented decline in biodiversity of any continent. Despite efforts to manage threats and pressures to biodiversity in Australia, it is still in decline.
The main threats to our biodiversity are:
- loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat
- the spread of invasive species
- unsustainable use of natural resources
- climate change
- inappropriate fire regimes
- changes to the aquatic environment and water flows
The Australian Government recognises the importance of biodiversity conservation and, in collaboration with the states and territories through the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, has set a national framework for biodiversity conservation over the next decade. Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030
Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework supports Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030 by translating the strategy’s principles, priorities for action and targets into specific goals and targets for native vegetation.
The Australian Government has responsibilities for biodiversity conservation through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) - the Australian Government's key piece of environmental legislation. It provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places - defined in the Act as matters of national environmental significance.
Farmers, Indigenous communities, and other private land managers manage approximately 77 per cent of Australia's land area. Conservation of biodiversity on private land is recognised by the Australian Government as an important way to protect Australia's environmental assets.
The Australian Government is investing more than $2 billion in 2008-2013 to achieve a real and measurable difference to Australia's environment through its Caring for our Country initiative. Caring for our Country supports communities, farmers and other land managers to protect Australia's natural environment and sustainably produce food and fibre.
The objective of the Environmental Stewardship Program within Caring for our Country was to maintain and improve the quality and extent of targeted high public value environmental assets on private land.
An important component of the Caring for Our Country initiative is the National Reserve System. This is a nation-wide network of reserves especially set up to protect Australia's unique natural environment for current and future generations.
The Australian Government recognises that conservation of biodiversity on private land is an important way to protect Australia's biodiversity.
State and territory governments and local governments also provide conservation incentives to private land holders.
Conservation incentives encourage or motivate people to participate in conservation activities. Incentives can be financial or non-financial in nature, and are typically offered by governments as part of an environmental program. Some incentives are linked to: management plans, placing covenants on land, conservation agreements, or to other permanent protection tools such as formal reservation.
Australian Government Incentives
- EPBC Act Conservation Agreements are agreements between the Australian Government Environment Minister and another person for the protection and conservation of biodiversity in an area of land or sea.
- The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has responsibility for a number of administrative arrangements relating to taxation concessions that seek to conserve and protect the natural environment.
- Tender based approaches and auctions for conservation payments are a new way to deliver funding to community groups and individuals for conservation works.
- The National Reserve System is Australia's network of protected areas. Organisations can apply for funding to help them buy land for conservation or they can apply for funding to work with landholders, helping them establish perpetual conservation covenants on parts of their private land.
- Conservation covenants are voluntary agreements made between a landholder and an authorised body (such as a Covenant Scheme Provider) that aims to protect and enhance the natural, cultural and/or scientific values of certain land.
- Revolving Funds are joint Australian Government-state government investments which set aside money for the purpose of purchasing properties with natural or cultural values, placing a conservation covenant on the title and reselling the land to conservation-minded people. The proceeds from the sale of properties are used to buy more properties and sell them with a conservation covenant in place.
- Local government rate rebates and other incentives. Contact your local government for more information.
- Trading and offset schemes.