Report paints ‘bleak’ picture of state’s biodiversity

THE NSW Government released its Biodiversity Outlook Report for 2024 last week, providing an updated overview of the state’s ecosystems and biological diversity.

In 2020, the first NSW Biodiversity Outlook Report presented the results of the first assessment of the state’s Biodiversity Indicator Program, establishing a baseline for reporting on future trends in biodiversity.

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“Biodiversity is facing a number of pressures, including climate change, habitat loss and invasive species,” said Anthony Lean, Secretary, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW).

“These pressures are causing a decline in biodiversity in New South Wales, with nearly 1,000 species known to be at risk of extinction if there is no intervention.”

The 2024 reveals that 50 percent of listed species are expected to survive in 100 years, down from 52 percent in 2020.

A total of 76 percent of all known species are expected to survive in 100 years, down from 79 percent.

Between 73 and 89 percent of genetic diversity remains for all known plant species, down from 79-91 percent.

The report lists 305 invasive weeds and 36 pest animals as being known to occur n NSW.

On a positive note, the report states 11.2 percent of NSW has been secured for permanent protection, an increase from 8.6 percent of the state in 2020.

NSW Greens spokesperson for climate change and the environment, MLC Sue Higginson, said the latest figures on biodiversity loss in NSW are “extreme and bleak”.

“If they don’t mobilse this Government into real action I just don’t know what will,” Higginson said.

“Half of all threatened species becoming extinct is an intolerable outcome.

“This severe biodiversity loss is being driven by habitat destruction in native forests and land clearing across all ecosystems.

“The Minns-Labor Government was elected on a promise to stop both of these trends, but has acted on neither.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water told NOTA last week, “The NSW Government is considering the findings and recommendations of statutory reviews of the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the native vegetation provisions of the Local Land Services Act.

“The Government response, to be published in the first half of 2024, will enable the government to deliver three key election commitments – reform biodiversity offsets, strengthen environmental protections and end excess land clearing.”

Meanwhile, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) expressed alarm that the report failed to identify population numbers and growth as the ‘underlying causes of biodiversity decline in the state’.

SPA national president Peter Strachan said habitat loss is cited as the major threat to biodiversity, yet the report does not explain why this habitat loss is occurring.

“It is because we clear land to facilitate the agricultural and urban expansion necessary to house and feed people,” said Mr Strachan.

“In short, the primary cause of this habitat loss is our growing population.

“NSW’s population grew by 186,100, or 2.3 percent, in the year ending 30 September 2023.

“These additional people all need to be fed and housed and have other infrastructure provided to meet their needs and wants.

“It is inevitable that habitat will be destroyed to meet these demands, whatever the policies of mitigation employed.”

The 2021 ABS Census reported Port Stephens LGA having a population of 75,276, up from 71,381 people in 2016.

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