Category Archives: Australia

11 of the World’s Most Jeopardized Forests

Imagine our world without up to 656,000 square miles of forest – an area than twice the size of Texas. Our world would look a lot different.

According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released in April, this could be the case by 2030. The report identified 11 regions around the world with the greatest expected loss of forest over the next 15 years.

These forests are home to countless animals, including rare and endangered species, and such habitat loss would be detrimental to them. And even worse, it could all happen in as little as 15 years from now unless we address major forest threats like mining, illegal logging, agriculture and road construction.

Here are the 11 forests identified in the WWF report:

1. Amazon

/ CC BY-SA 2.0
/ CC BY-SA 2.0
The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest forest, but it’s also projected to have the greatest habitat loss. Over a quarter of the forest will be gone if current trends persist, especially today’s cattle ranching and agriculture in the region.

 
2. Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco

Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
The Atlantic forest spans parts of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and is one of the richest rainforests in the world, with more biodiversity per acre than the Amazon. But 75% of the Brazilian population lives there, causing deforestation in both the Atlantic forest and the neighboring dry forest Gran Chaco.

 
3. Borneo

 Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0
In 2030, there could be as little as 33% of the lowland Borneo rainforest left. Weak government and instability only exacerbate deforestation as more and more people create palm oil plantations in the region.

 
4. Cerrado

Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Cerrado is a high plateau region in Brazil that isn’t as well-known as the Amazon but is just as threatened. Cattle ranching and converting forest to soy plantations are the major causes of deforestation.

 
5. Choco-Darien

Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Running along South America’s northwestern Pacific coast, these forests face deforestation from roads, power lines, mining and oil exploration. Most damage has occurred in the Ecuadorian Choco, but the regions in Panama and Colombia are also in jeopardy.

 
6. Congo Basin

Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s most important wilderness regions, containing 20% of the planet’s tropical forests and the most biodiversity in Africa. These forests are especially threatened because the human population is expected to double by 2030.

 
7. Eastern Africa

Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
This region has the miombo woodlands and coastal and mountain forests, all of which are threatened. The forests are illegally logged, over-harvested for timber and fuel wood or converted to livestock and cash crops. Sadly, the coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya are already down to 10% of their original area.

 
8. Eastern Australia

Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Although there have been recent reductions in deforestation in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, weak legislation raises concerns about forest loss. Conversion of forest land to pastures for livestock is the main cause of deforestation, but key species are affected, including koalas, possums, gliders and birds.

 
9. Greater Mekong

Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Because of a booming economy, the region’s forest land is being converted for sugar, rice, rubber and biofuels. But as more and more of the forests are converted for economic development, the area’s animals become increasingly threatened and the Greater Mekong forests are rich in species. For instance, in 2011 alone, 126 new species were discovered there, including fish, snakes, frogs and bats.

 
10. New Guinea

Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
New Guinea and neighboring islands are home to the largest remaining regions of tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific area and home to more than 6% of the world’s species. But with agriculture on the rise, the forests and their inhabitants are in jeopardy.

 
11.Sumatra

Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
Indonesia’s palm oil production is now centered in Sumatra, and particularly the Riau province, causing deforestation in the area. It even affects protected forests and national parks, threatening the region’s rhinos, tigers, orangutans, and other wildlife
 
 
What Can We Do?
WWF believes that stopping deforestation now is more strategic and cost-effective than dealing with the consequences later. Deforestation accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions – more than the total emissions from every single the motor vehicles, airplanes and ships in the world. If we don’t address this issue and take action, we could lose over 600,000 square miles of our planet’s forests. With that, we would lose the benefits those forests provide, including jobs, clean water and wood, and we would lose precious habitat for much of the world’s wildlife and many endangered species.
 
 
Featured image by David Evers / CC BY 2.0

Advertisements

A Koala Baby So Adorable, It Will Instantly Make Your Day [VIDEO]

Meet Imogen, a 10 month old baby koala at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Australia. It is her first photo shoot and she is darling. Watch her overwhelming cuteness as she eats greens, plays, and, well, simply exists. Fun fact — a baby koala is called a “joey.” Watch the little video and this joyful joey will surely make you smile:

Trouble for Whales? Their Favorite Food Could Be Disappearing

What is one of the baleen whale’s favorite food? Krill. But as carbon dioxide levels rise, it creates a big problem for these tiny crustaceans.

Studies at the Australian Antarctic Division agency found that krill eggs do not hatch when exposed to higher CO2 levels. In fact, Antarctic Division biologist So Kawaguchi believes there will be a 20-70% decline in Antarctic krill populations by the year 2100 and a complete extinction by 2300. Dr. Kawaguchi says:

“Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the water mean greater levels of ocean acidification. This interrupts the physiology of krill. It stops the eggs hatching, or the larvae developing.”

Although krill are tiny creatures, they are one of the most abundant species on earth and have a massive role in the marine ecosystem. They sit at the bottom of the ocean food chain and serve as sustenance for (or sustenance for the prey of) several animals such as fish, squid, sea birds, seals and whales. If krill die off – or populations diminish significantly – it will have a serious, negative impact on baleen whales and much of the ocean’s ecosystem.

It’s not too late, however, as Kawaguchi suggests a moratorium on fishing in the region until the agency can dive deeper into the effects ocean acidification has on krill.

 
 
Featured image by Jerry Kirkhart / CC BY 2.0

What the Reef Looks Like Through the Eyes of a Turtle [VIDEO]

Ever wonder what it would be like to be an animal swimming in the Great Barrier Reef? Now you can find out, thanks to a helpful turtle and a GoPro. See what the reef looks like through the eyes of one of its very own inhabitants.

Australia’s Ban on Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef

A step forward for the Great Barrier Reef is a step forward for conservation.

Earlier this year, the Australian government banned dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In November, the government extended the ban outside the park, to include the entire World Heritage Area, where 80% of the dumping had occurred closer to the shore.

This closed a legal loophole that would have allowed 46 million cubic meters of seabed to be dug up and dumped in the fragile and biodiverse ecosystem. The Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 134 species of sharks and rays, over 30 species of marine mammals, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, as well as 411 kinds of hard coral and one-third of the world’s soft corals.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said:

“For everyone around the world who cares about the Reef, this is a moment to savor.”

 
 
Featured image by Kyle Hovey / CC BY-ND 2.0

Humpback Whales Are Making a Huge Comeback in Australia

In Australia, the humpback whale population has rebounded to 90% of the pre-whaling numbers on the country’s west coast and 63% on the east coast.

Scientific research conducted by an international team of collaborators and published in the Marine Policy journal found that, since 2012, numbers are rising at about 9% per year off the west coast and 10% off the east coast – some of the highest recorded in the world.

Co-author on the paper and Murdoch University Professor Lars Bejder told Guardian Australia:

“Our point here was [that] we are really keen to bring out a successful story. It’s usually all doom and gloom in marine conservation. And it’s very depressing and demoralising for managers, politicians, NGOs and the general public, so what we wanted to do here was say there are rare occasions where it works, so don’t give up.”

Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly / CC BY 2.0

Decades and decades of legal and illegal whaling since the 19th century severely diminished humpback numbers in seven major breeding populations in the southern hemisphere. For example, one group was reduced to 500 whales but is now at an estimated 14,552.

Because of these population increases, the risk of extinction is extremely unlikely and Australian humpback whales can be removed from their threatened status. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still be protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), though. Bejder says:

“If humpback whales were removed from the Australian threatened species list, the EPBC Act would still protect them from significant impacts as a matter of national environmental significance, as these whales are a migratory species. Beyond Australia, the International Whaling Committee manages the global moratorium on commercial whaling, which is essential for the humpback whales’ continued success.”

The Australian humpback whale comeback represents a conservation success. But continued success rests upon ongoing efforts to protect this species and keep its numbers on the rise.

Photo by Christopher Eden / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Christopher Eden / CC BY 2.0

Featured image by texaus1 / CC BY 2.0

Fox in the Bluebells

Photo by lee roberts / CC BY-SA 2.0

Fox in the Bluebells

The Two Moves Australia Took to Help Koalas and Tasmanian Devils

Two Australian icons got a helping hand this year from their home country. The koala and the Tasmanian devil each received support from Australia when it declared the status of all koalas as “vulnerable” and promoted the Tasmanian devil to an emblem for the state.

First, Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that all koalas in the state, not just the ones in the southeast region, would be listed as vulnerable. Several factors have affected the welfare of koalas and led to this status update, including car accidents, dog attacks and other results of urbanization.

The new listing will align the state government’s position on koalas with that of the federal government. State agencies will work with local councils to make sure koala populations are tracked and factored into future development. It also may be necessary to plant new habitats for koalas to offset an impact that development has on the species.

It’s unclear how many koalas are in Queensland, but an audit from between 2007 and 2011 put koala losses at 16,000. Queensland’s environment minister Steven Miles said:

“It’s bad news because it means the koala population is not as strong outside of southeast Queensland as we thought. But it’s good news because it means the government and local councils will do more to protect [them].”

Photo by Ross Huggett / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Ross Huggett / CC BY 2.0

Further south, the Tasmanian devil has been chosen as the first animal emblem ever in Tasmania. The species was chosen because it is recognized around the world as uniquely Tasmanian. Moreover, Tasmania hopes that choosing the devil as its emblem will raise awareness about the species and devil facial tumour disease, an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer among devils.

Featured image by Nicki Mannix / CC BY 2.0

One Step Closer to Ending Great Barrier Reef Dumping

We are now one step closer to protecting one of the most magnificent and biodiverse places on Earth: the Great Barrier Reef.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has voted to continue pressuring Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the reef, making it only a matter of months before we see a full ban on dumping there.

This feat was made possible because of the support of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. More than 500,000 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) supporters from 177 countries called on world leaders to defend the reef.

UNESCO’s decision requires Australia to deliver effective and sustained protection of the Great Barrier Reef from reckless industrialization, pollution and other threats. To monitor, Australia must provide reports on its progress, with its first report due in 18 months.

WWF expects that a full ban on dumping in the reef’s World Heritage waters will become real in a few months. Director General of WWF International Marco Lambertini states:

“Australia has promised to prioritize the health of the reef over damaging activities like dumping dredge spoil. UNESCO will be watching to ensure that the condition of the reef improves in coming years, as will the 550,000 WWF campaign supporters and millions of people worldwide who are deeply concerned and want to see a stop to industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.”

In the decision, the World Heritage Committee expressed continued concern about the decline of reef habitats and wildlife populations. The committee also warned of the reef’s poor overall outlook due to long-term threats of pollution and climate change, calling for necessary action to protect this beautiful ecosystem.

Photo by gjhamley / CC BY 2.0
Photo by gjhamley / CC BY 2.0

Featured image: Tchami / CC BY-SA 2.0