Victoria’s native animals and natural landscapes are in a state of serious decline, as population growth and land clearance put ecosystems under pressure and climate change causes more extreme natural disasters such as bushfires.
An extended state government inquiry into the health of Victoria’s environment found that the clearing of native vegetation and the creep of invasive species threaten the state’s biodiversity.
There is a significant drop in the number of native plants and animals, and those already listed as threatened are not being adequately protected, the survey found. Invasive weeds and wild animals now inhabit all of Victoria’s land and water environments and are a major reason for the declining health of the state’s ecosystems.
And while the government’s diversity strategy sets important targets around the protection of endangered species, its agencies lack the funding to implement them.
“Within a few generations, once common animals and plants are slowly disappearing, confined to ever-smaller pockets of undisturbed habitat,” said Matt Ruchel, executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association. “Ecosystems, the web of life, are collapsing before our eyes.”
The inquiry heard evidence that only a small number of species listed as endangered have government action plans, despite this being a mandatory requirement under Victorian law.
Environmental monitoring and data are too patchy to accurately identify the extent of declining species, and the distribution and abundance of pest species are poorly understood. There is an urgent need for these initiatives to be properly funded, the inquiry was told.
Climate change is driving more frequent and severe bushfires in Victoria, which are devastating native animals and threatening the viability of the state’s montane ash forests, rainforest and sensitive plants.