Opportunities to improve the future of South Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity

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Abstract

It is unequivocal that the poor condition of South Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity is continuing to decline overall – much like elsewhere in Australia. This decline is mainly due to the legacy of vegetation clearing and habitat modification since European colonisation, the destructive influence of invasive species (especially predators like cats and foxes) on its native fauna and flora, and impotent or broken legislation to prevent further damage. The struggle to maintain our remaining biodiversity, and our intentions to restore once-healthy ecosystems, are rendered even more difficult by the added influence of rapid climate disruption. Despite the pessimistic outlook, South Australians have successfully employed several effective conservation mechanisms, including increasing the coverage of our network of protected areas, doing ecological restoration projects, reducing the densities of feral animals across landscapes, encouraging private landholders to protect their biodiversity assets, releasing environmental water flows to rivers and wetlands, and bringing more people in touch with nature. While these strategies are certainly stepping in the right direction, our policies and conservation targets have been hampered by arbitrary baselines, a lack of cohesion among projects and associated legislation, unrepresentative protected areas, and inappropriate spatial and time scales of intervention. While the challenges are many, there are several tractable and affordable actions that can be taken immediately to improve the prospect of the State’s biodiversity into the near future. These include coordinating existing and promoting broader-scale ecological restoration projects, establishing strategic and evidence-based control of invasive species, planning more representative protected-area networks that are managed effectively for conservation outcomes, fixing broken environmental
legislation, avoiding or severely limiting biodiversity-offset incentives, expanding conservation covenants on private land, coordinating a state-wide monitoring network and protocol that tells the South Australian community how effective we are with our policies and actions, expanding existing conservation investment and tapping into different funding schemes, and coordinating better communication and interaction among government and non-governmental environment agencies. Having a more transparent and defensible link between specific conservation actions and targeted outcomes will also likely improve confidence that conservation investments are well-spent. With just a little more effort, coordination, funding, and foresight, South Australia has the opportunity to become a pillar of biodiversity conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-77
Number of pages33
JournalRethinking Ecology
Volume4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Keywords

  • South Australia
  • biodiversity
  • conservation
  • restoration
  • environmental legislation
  • environmental policy
  • protected areas
  • invasive species
  • biodiversity offsets

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