It’s amazing to think we are half way through the year already. We will be watching the State budget with interest later this month to see the scale of investment being made in our essential assets of protected areas, including national parks.
Looking more broadly often gives a useful context for understanding the levels of protection we should be aiming for. The United Nations target of 17% of land areas protected by 2020 is the current internationally accepted target for protecting our biodiversity.
There is expectation that this will increase to 30% of land and sea areas globally to be protected by 2030 in the next United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity meeting later this year. The call for “30 x 30” will be a clear message to governments worldwide, including Australia.
However, recent research has recommending that we need to be looking at conserving more than 40% of the earth’s surface to maintain biodiversity of the planet (interestingly one of the authors is Queensland’s Chief Scientist, Prof Hugh Possingham). Over 35,000 fauna species were mapped, and the minimum range needed to conserve them identified. This is the most comprehensive work of this kind, as it covers so many species. The area needed equates to 44% of the Earth’s surface.
It’s sobering to think that each time research is undertaken that expands our understanding of the earth’s biodiversity, the outcome is a higher target of land and sea areas required for its protection.
44% may sound a lot, but vast areas of land already have some form of protection. Interestingly, Australia has large areas considered to be ecologically intact, especially in more remote areas. Areas down Australia’s east coast are considered to be vulnerable, and in need of greater protection.
So how does Queensland’s biodiversity rate globally? We have remarkable biodiversity, with double the species of any other state or territory. We have 72% of Australia’s bird species, and 85% of its mammals. Half the species living in Queensland are found nowhere else in the world – they are unique to this state. We have an opportunity to further protect this amazing natural legacy, and recognise it as an essential asset for our future well being.
But we have a way to go! The below graph shows how Queensland rates against the other states for protected areas, compared to the IUCN 17% target. We are way behind. Action is needed and now.