In this article, we look at some of the environmental issues in Australia. It is very important for us to be aware of the state of our environment and the efforts put in place to ensure that these environmental issues are addressed.
Environmental Issues in Australia
Some of the steps the Australian government is taking to combat environmental issues in Australia include setting ambitious emissions reduction targets, investing in renewable energy, supporting energy efficiency, protecting native vegetation, controlling invasive species, etc.
However, these are some of the current environmental issues in Australia.
In Australia, deforestation is a significant environmental issue that has resulted in the extinction of millions of native animals, including endangered species, as well as the devastation of forests and woodlands. Australia is one of the worst industrialized nations for deforestation, according to the Wilderness Society, since approximately 50% of its forest cover has been destroyed during the past 200 years.
According to the Wilderness Society, the following startling facts about deforestation in Australia:
- Every 86 seconds, an area the size of MCG is destroyed.
- In comparison to before European settlers arrived, only 50% of Australia’s forests and bushlands are still intact.
- Since 1750, Australia has lost 28% of its mallee forest, 27% of its rainforest, 19% of its open forest, and 11% of its woodland forest.
- Australia currently holds the record for the most worldwide mammal extinctions.
- Australia has lost 37 plant species and 55 animal species to extinction as of this writing.
The research also emphasizes that in Queensland and New South Wales, habitat loss poses the greatest threat to koalas. According to a review of SLATS data from the previous five years, beef farming is responsible for 66% of Queensland’s deforestation and land removal.
It’s important to note that the carbon emissions produced by land clearing in Australia are roughly equal to one-third of the emissions produced by all of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
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In Australia, soil erosion is a severe environmental problem, and it seriously jeopardizes soil health worldwide. The removal of soil particles from one location to another under the action of wind or water is known as soil erosion. Given that soil is fundamentally a non-renewable resource, it is a natural process that human activities have dramatically accelerated, making it one of the biggest risks to soil function globally.
In Western Australia, the direct cost of water erosion to dryland farming is estimated to be close to $10 million. Maintaining an adequate ground cover, which guards soil against particle detachment and transport, can stop soil erosion. An important defense against soil erosion is conservation agriculture, which is becoming more prevalent in Australia.
Two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural land is deteriorating, which is a significant environmental problem. Soil erosion, soil salinity, soil acidity, and soil pollution are the main causes of land degradation.
The State of the Environment Report indicates that Australia’s environment is typically getting worse. The quantity and quality of our natural capital, which includes the soil, wetlands, reefs, rivers, and biodiversity, have been continuously declining. These resources provide food, clean water, cultural links, and other benefits to Australians. The number of plant and animal species listed as threatened in June 2021 was 1,918, up from 1,774 in 2016.
Water scarcity and drought
With more than half of the continental U.S. experiencing drought conditions over the previous 20 years, water shortages and drought are significant environmental challenges in Australia. Due to drier and hotter weather, droughts have become more severe, which has decreased soil moisture due to increased water loss from plants and soils.
Australia has long had a precarious relationship with water, but recent extreme weather events have compelled it to acquire a greater appreciation for this priceless and limited resource, according to a report by National Geographic.
Coral bleaching and Great Barrier Reef degradation
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and coral bleaching are both serious environmental problems. Over the past 30 years, coral bleaching is thought to have destroyed half of the world’s coral reefs.
Corals expel the algae that lives inside their tissues during coral bleaching, which turns them white. Coral bleaching happens when water temperatures are too hot for too long. Corals can recover from bleaching, but if they remain in warmer water for more than eight weeks, they become more susceptible to disease and start to die.
The water quality of the Reef is also being impacted by chemical run-off from negligent farming practices. By suffocating corals, preventing them from receiving sunlight, and promoting algae blooms, this nitrogen-rich pollution also feeds coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.
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Australian agriculture continues to be negatively impacted by invasive species, which pose a severe danger to the country’s native biodiversity. With the European maritime discovery and colonization of Australia, and continuously since then, a number of species have arrived. $ 1.5 billion is spent each year on weed control, and an additional A$ 2.5 billion is lost agricultural output as a result of weed management.
Invading species that are frequently seen in Australia include:
Oryctolagus cuniculus, sometimes known as the European rabbit, is a species that was imported to Australia in the 18th century and has since developed into a serious pest, wreaking havoc on crops and local flora.
The cane toad (Rhinella marina) was brought to Australia in 1935 to serve as a biological control measure against the cane bug. However, it has subsequently developed into a serious pest and is harming the environment significantly.
Cats (Felis catus): In the 19th century, European settlers brought cats to Australia. They are currently regarded as one of the most harmful invasive species in the nation because they prey on local fauna and seriously harm the environment.
Cyprinus carpio, sometimes known as the common carp, was brought to Australia in the 19th century for aquaculture. They are currently regarded as one of the most harmful invasive species in the nation, seriously harming freshwater habitats.
Australia has a serious air pollution problem because it has several areas where the levels are substantially higher than what is considered safe. Each year, air pollution kills hundreds of people throughout Australia.
Despite having generally decent air quality, Australia still has to do more, according to the State of the Environment Report 2021. Pressure on air quality will increase due to climate change. Large parts of Australia are exposed to hazardous levels of smoke when bushfires, like those that occurred in the summer of 2019–20, occur.
Climate change and its impacts
Australia is facing a number of effects from climate change, including increased temperatures, bushfires, droughts, floods, and longer fire seasons.
Australia’s annual average temperatures are expected to rise by 0.4–2.0 °C above 1990 levels by 2030 and by 1-6 °C by 2070, according to the State of the Climate Report 2022.
In order to strengthen the energy sector’s resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, the Energy Sector Climate Information (ESCI) initiative was started. The Australian Energy Market Operator, the Bureau of Meteorology, and CSIRO are partners on the project.
Up to 80% of maritime pollution in Australia is produced by land-based activities, making it a serious environmental problem. Marine plants and animals, some of which are uncommon and endangered, might suffer terrible consequences as a result of marine pollution. Additionally, it can harm ecosystems and seriously harm human health.
The WWF-Australia claims that marine pollution is wreaking havoc on our waters. The accumulation of harmful substances in the water and food chains, even on the seafloor, is being caused by it, endangering the lives of marine species.
Biodiversity loss and species extinction
Australia has the highest rate of animal extinction in the world, making biodiversity loss there a serious concern. The biodiversity of Australia is seriously threatened by the extinction of numerous animal and plant species.
These species may be classified as extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, or dependent on conservation.
The loss of biodiversity in Australia is mostly a result of invasive species, with feral cats ranking among the worst offenders. Carp, cane toads, and European rabbits are among other invasive species.
Australia is one of seven nations named in an ABC News report as being accountable for more than half of the loss of biodiversity worldwide.
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Water pollution and contamination
In Australia, water contamination and pollution are serious environmental problems since they frequently exceed permissible levels in many regions of the nation.
The source of up to 80% of marine pollution is land-based activity. The two most significant pollution problems harming Australia’s coastal and marine environments are poor water quality and sediment quality.
According to the 1995 State of the Marine Environment Report, up to 80% of all marine pollution originates on land, which poses a serious risk to the long-term health of nearshore marine systems.
Natural habitat destruction
Australia has a serious problem with habitat loss because the country loses a sizable amount of its natural habitats to agricultural and real estate development.
The National Reserve System (NRS), which was established in 1992 to preserve Australia’s reputation as a “region of mega-diversity,” claims that about 20% of the country’s landmass is preserved within its framework.
The primary driver of biodiversity loss in Australia continues to be human activity, notably land clearing. The Australian rainforests are particularly significant to the conservation movement.
Other environmental issues in Australia include:
- Mining and resource extraction impacts
- Indigenous land and cultural heritage preservation
- Urban development and habitat fragmentation
What is the current environment in Australia?
Because of growing pressures from factors like climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and resource extraction, Australia’s ecosystem is in bad condition and is deteriorating.
Does Australia have a pollution problem?
Compared to other nations, Australia has relatively low levels of air pollution, but the effects are more severe in places with higher rates of socioeconomic hardship.
What are the environmental changes in Australia?
The average temperature of our land and ocean has risen. We are also observing altered rainfall patterns, an increase in the risk of wildfires, and rising sea levels despite significant natural variation.