ACT State of the Environment Report: Biodiversity Findings
The 2015 ACT State of the Environment report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly in mid-February. The report details a number of issues of concern for the Frank Fenner Foundation in ensuring a biosensitive environment in the ACT.
The Report notes that “progress in conservation of biodiversity, including both habitats and species, remains a challenge. In addition, pressures leading to habitat loss and modification threaten the ACT’s biodiversity” (Section 7). Further it is reported “For vulnerable species, notable trends during the reporting period (2011—2015) include a decline in Brown Treecreeper, Glossy Black Cockatoo and Scarlet Robin recordings … For endangered species, notable trends during the recording period include a decline in Regent Honeyeater, Grassland Earless Dragon and Northern Corroboree Frog recordings.” (Main findings)
While the report recognises that biodiversity has value for human systems, including delivery of ecosystem services such as clean air and clean water and in maintaining resilience in specific ecosystems, Frank Fenner Foundation is concerned about the deterioration of the ACT’s biodiversity, as a key element of achieving a biosensitive society where humans acknowledge and respect the intrinsic value of as well as their interrelationship with a healthy biodiversity.
The Report notes that “Natural Temperate Grassland is one of the most threatened natural plant communities in Australia. Before European settlement, such grasslands occupied 11% of the ACT. Today, they occupy less than 1% of the ACT, and what remains is degraded and continually threatened by human activity and invasion by exotic plant species." (Reference 66)
One of the more worrying trends reported is that the ACT’s policy to use offsets to address the impact on removal of habitat through urban development is not yet providing any indication of environmental gain.
(Direct offsets involve land added to environmental reserves to address potential development pressures.) The absence until recently of a systematic approach to the recording of offset has also meant that potential cumulative or combined impacts of development and the potential improvements to EPBC-listed ecological communities and species were not being recognised or addressed.
(thanks to CCACTR for their analysis)