Published: Continental-scale governance failure will hasten loss of Australia’s biodiversity

Authors: Euan G Ritchie, Corey JA Bradshaw, Chris R Dickman, Richard Hobbs, Christopher N Johnson, Emma L Johnston, William F Laurence, David Lindenmayer, Michael A McCarthy, Dale G Nimmo, Hugh H Possingham, Robert L Pressey, David M Watson and John Woinarski


Conserving biodiversity against a global backdrop of rapid environmental change poses one of the biggest and most important challenges to society. For this reason, systems of nature reserves have never been more important.

Protected areas are under threat in many parts of the world (Mascia and Pailler 2011), but the weakening of protected areas in a rich, developed country with a global reputation for conservation leadership (Harrison 2006) is particularly alarming (Ritchie 2013). Consequently, we are concerned about the recent spate of substantial policy, legislative and management changes being made by three of six Australian state governments for exploitative uses of national parks — actions that could affect much of Australia and have significant negative effects on biodiversity.

In recent decades, the Australian state and federal governments have collectively built a system of terrestrial and marine conservation reserves that aspires to be comprehensive and adequate, and to form the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. The resulting national reserve system is imperfect, but goes some way toward protecting Australia’s unique species and ecosystems (Taylor et al. 2011). That system is now being systematically undermined, even while continental-scale biodiversity losses are underway.

Ritchie EG, Bradshaw CJA, Dickman CR, Hobbs R, Johnson CN, Johnston EL, Laurence WF, Lindenmayer D, McCarthy MA, Nimmo DG, Possingham HH, Pressey RL, Watson DM, Woinarski J (2013) Continental-scale governance failure will hasten loss of Australia’s biodiversity, Conservation Biology, 27(6) 1133–1135 PDF DOI

2 replies on “Published: Continental-scale governance failure will hasten loss of Australia’s biodiversity”

Dear Euan , this paper is good and timely considering the environmental management of this country seems to be unfolding. However there is one matter you did not cover which I wish to bring to your attention, clearing of remnant vegetation for open cut mining. New mines are going to remove thousands of hectares of important vegetation in the coming years. I have sent you an abstract from a paper I am going to send to Aust. Mammal. I can supply paper if you want to have a look. Cheers, David C. Paull.

“A Koala population was surveyed in a large forest remnant on the north-west edge of the Liverpool Plains of New South Wales. Spot Assessment Technique surveys examined tree preferences and activity levels and found a preference for the eucalypt species Pilliga Box E. pilligaensis (12.8% strike rate) and Blakeley’s Red Gum E. blakelyi (8.1% strike rate). Koala activity was detected at 50% of sites surveyed (12 out of 24), with a level of activity at ‘active’ sites of between 3-37% (mean = 9.89±2.856). The population in this forest may be described as being at a ‘low density’ but showing evidence of residency. Analysis of the data shows that attempting to categorise tree usage and activity according to commonly used standards may be problematic for low density populations. Large remnants such as Leard State Forest are likely to be important areas for both the refuge and dispersal of this species in the Liverpool Plains area, a situation which is now under threat by open cut mining. Wholesale removal of strategically located remnants such as this may have dire consequences for the survival of the Koala in drier parts of Australia, particularly in the context of climate change driven environmental shifts. “

Hi David,

This is a very good point and I’ll try and work it into upcoming papers.


Dr Euan G. Ritchie
Senior Lecturer
HDR Coordinator, LES (Burwood)
Director (Research Chapters), Ecological Society of Australia
Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science Engineering & Built Environment, Deakin University, Melbourne Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC 3125
+61 3 9251 7606
+61 0418882992
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