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Environmental Issues in Australia
 
 
 

General

There are a range of such issues, some of them relating to conservation in Australia while others, for example the deteriorating state of Murray-Darling Basin, have a direct and serious effect on human land use and the economy. Many human activities including the use of natural resources have a direct impact on the Australian environment.

Climate change has become an increasing concern in Australia in recent years, with many Australians considering protection of the environment to be the most important issue facing the country. The Rudd Ministry has initiated several emission reduction activities; Rudd's first official act, on his first day in office, was to sign the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest in the world, lower than those of only a few other industrialised nations. Rainfall in Australia has slightly increased over the past century, both nationwide and for two quadrants of the nation, while annual mean temperatures increased significantly over the past decades. Water restrictions are currently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages due to urban population increases and localised drought.

Many of Australia's eco-regions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; wetlands are listed under the Ramsar Convention, and 15 natural World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 51th of 163 countries in the world on the 2010 Environmental Performance Index.

Clear-cutting of old growth forests is continuing in parts of Australia. This often involves the destruction of natural ecosystems and the replacement with monoculture plantations. Land management issues including clearance of native vegetation, reafforestation of once-cleared areas, control of exotic weeds and pests, expansion of dryland salinity, and changed fire regimes. Intensification of resource use in sectors such as forestry, fisheries, and agriculture are widely reported to contribute to biodiversity loss in Australia. Coastal and marine environments also have reduced biodiversity from reduced water quality caused by pollution and sediments arising from human settlements and agriculture. In central New South Wales where there are large plains of grassland, problems have risen from lack of land clearing.

The Daintree rainforest, a tropical rainforest near Daintree, Queensland covering around 1,200 square kilometres, is threatened by logging, development, mining and the effects of the high tourist numbers.

Australia has a poor record of conservation of native fauna. The arrival of humans is attributed to the extinction of Australian mega-fauna and since European settlement, 23 birds, four frogs, and 27 mammal species are also known to have become extinct. Over a hundred species of fauna are currently under serious threat of extinction. The plight of some of these species receives more attention than others and recently the focus of many conservation organisations has been the critically endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, the endangered Tasmanian Devil, Northern Tiger Quoll, South Eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Southern Cassowary, Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, Leadbeater's Possum and Southern Corroboree frog.

One of the notable issues with marine conservation in Australia is the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef's environmental pressures include water quality from run-off, climate change and mass coral bleaching, cyclic outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish, overfishing, and shipping accidents.

A serious issue to the Australian marine environment is the dumping of rubbish from ships. There have been a number of cases, particularly involving the navy of Australian and other countries polluting Australian waters including the dumping of chemical warfare agents. Recently documented cases include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in 2006 which was found to be dumping rubbish off the shores of Moreton Island. In Victoria, a large number of toxic drums containing 1,2-Dichlorobenzene xylenol, a substance very toxic to aquatic creatures washed up on beaches during May, 2009 presumably fallen off a passing container ship.

Increased coal mining in Australia is contentious because of the effects of global warming on Australia, emissions to air from coal burning power stations, dust, subsidence, impact on rivers like the Hunter River and other water users, failure to adequately restore mined areas, and lack of sustainability. Most of Australia's demand for electricity depends upon coal-fired thermal generation, owing to the plentiful indigenous coal supply, limited potential for hydro-electric generation and political unwillingness to exploit indigenous uranium resources to fuel a 'carbon neutral' domestic nuclear energy program.

 

 
 

 



 


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