According to a five-year environmental report card presented by the government on Tuesday, Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and has one of the highest rates of species loss among the world’s wealthiest nations.

Some creatures, such as the blue-tailed skink, are currently only known to live in captivity, while the central rock-rat and Christmas Island flying fox are among the mammals thought to be most vulnerable to extinction in the next 20 years, owing mostly to imported predator species.

The sandalwood tree is likewise declining in popularity.

The research, which comes after five years of drought, bushfires, and floods in Australia, said that rising temperatures, altering fire and rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification were all having major long-term implications.

“The State of the Environment Report is a shocking document – it tells a story of crisis and decline in Australia’s environment,” Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said in a statement, adding that the environment will be a priority for the incoming Labor administration.

She said that new national parks and protected marine areas will be established in order to reach an aim of protecting 30% of Australia’s land and ocean waters by 2030.

The number of species added to the list of vulnerable or endangered species increased by 8% on average since the last report in 2016, with 533 animals and 1,385 plant species being included. More than half are considered endangered or highly endangered.

The numbers would skyrocket as a consequence of the 2019-2020 bushfire season.

The “Black Summer” bushfires killed or displaced 1 billion to 3 billion animals and destroyed 9 percent of koala habitat.

Plibersek remarked at the National Press Club in Canberra, “Those bushfires were an ecological bomb ripping through southeastern Australia,”

According to the research, it will need around A$1.7 billion ($1.2 billion) every year to resurrect vulnerable species. Plibersek said that the incoming administration had committed to spending A$250 million on vulnerable species.

The report card portrayed a bleak picture of “poor” and “deteriorating” environmental conditions.

Since the early twentieth century, average land temperatures in Australia have risen by 1.4 degrees Celsius.

“Sea levels continue to rise faster than the global average and threaten coastal communities,” according to the research.

Climate change and weather extremes are threatening several of the country’s most cherished ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef, which has been struck by widespread coral bleaching.

While coral reef health is deteriorating due to marine heatwaves, the report also highlighted the threat of ocean acidification, which is caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is said to be approaching a tipping point that will result in the decline of coral juveniles, which are critical to reef recovery.

Warming waters have impacted kelp beds off the southeast coast, harming the abalone and lobster businesses, according to Plibersek.

Scientists and environmental organizations said the research should serve as a wake-up call to the government to increase carbon emissions reductions to combat climate change, reform laws to conserve habitat, and spend more money in species protection.

Source: Reuters

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