Species extinctions

Scientists are describing what's happening around us as the ‘sixth great species extinction'. This is the worst time for species disappearing since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

Unlike previous mass‑extinction events (caused by asteroid strikes, volcanoes or natural climate shifts), this one is predominantly caused by humans. Activities such as land clearing and habitat destruction, introduction of invasive feral species interrupting natural ecosystems and pollution events, such as greenhouse gasses creating climate change, are driving this trend.

Australia

The endangered northern quoll. Photo: Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.
The endangered northern quoll. Photo: Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.
The Red List (of the world's endangered species) produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) shows Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinction of any developed country.

Our endemic species

Our geographic isolation has meant that over many millennia native flora and fauna have evolved to be uniquely adapted to Australia's landscapes.

Over 90% of our plant species, 87% of our mammals and 45% of birds are endemic to the country (found nowhere else).

They've adapted to a diverse range of complex habitats.

When in a healthy condition Australian ecosystems are often highly resilient and able to recover from fire, droughts, floods and extreme weather. But over the past 200 years human activities have seen more than 75% of our native vegetation destroyed or degraded. In addition, climate change is creating conditions in which more extreme weather events are occuring, testing resilience.  

Our most urgent challenge is to respond before it's too late. It falls to each of us to ensure the natural heritage of our country is secured and protected in our generation.

Global urgency 

The Robust Greenhood Orchid, thought to be extinct for 70 years, was rediscovered on our Nardoo Hills Reserve. Photo:  Jeroen van Veen.
The Robust Greenhood Orchid, thought to be extinct for 70 years, was rediscovered on our Nardoo Hills Reserve. Photo: Jeroen van Veen.
The United Nations General Assembly declared the years 2011 to 2020 the Decade on Biodiversity, with a goal to significantly reduce biodiversity loss.

It created a set of 20 time-bound, measurable goals aimed at halting the loss of biodiversity at a global level by the middle of the 21st century. These are known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

In Australia, these Aichi Targets translate into 10 very specific goals, which include setting aside an additional 60 million hectares of native habitat for biodiversity conservation.