National Biodiversity Month

Coral Reefs are full of Biodiversity. (Photo: Live Ningaloo)

 “All things are bound together. All things connect. What happens to the Earth happens to the children of the Earth. Man has not woven the web of life. He is but one thread. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” (Anon.)

Biodiversity Month is held in September each year and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.

The south west of Western Australia is one of 35 biodiversity hotspots worldwide. Biodiversity “hotspots” are the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth. This means that we have outstanding diversity of species in a global context, but it is under threat, which makes our conservation efforts even more important.

It is the result of an old landscape with a stable climate.  The south west of Australia has not seen glaciers or ice for more than 200 million years. This has allowed species to evolve without the major extinctions seen elsewhere in the world, resulting in the incredible biodiversity present.

The south west of Western Australia is similar in size to England yet England has about 1,500 species of vascular plants (all plants except ferns and mosses), 47 of them found nowhere else.  By contrast south west Australia harbours an astonishing 7,239 vascular plant species, over half of which are found nowhere else in the world. Our number of unique WA species is some 75 times the number of unique species in England.

Western Australia is home to:

  • 141 or around 70% of Australia’s 207 mammal species, 25 unique to the state
  • more than 500 reptile species
  • more than 1,600 fish species
  • around 13,000 species of plants of which 3,000 are yet to be formally named.
  • hundreds of thousands of invertebrate species.

Article source: University of Western Australia’s Hans Lambers, Professor and Head of School and Don Bradshaw, Emeritus professor.

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity has been described as the ‘web of life’, ‘the variety of living things’ or ‘the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and ecosystems of which they are a part’.

Human beings depend on biodiversity for their sustenance, health, well-being and enjoyment of life. We derive all of our food, many medicines and industrial products from the wild and domesticated components of biological diversity. Biodiversity is the basis for much of our recreation and tourism, and includes the ecosystems, which provide us with many services such as clean water.

Biodiversity encompasses every living thing that exists on our planet and the environment in which they live and the range includes the smallest one-cell microbe to the enormous majesty of the blue whale. From the depths of the ocean to peaks of our tallest mountains, biodiversity forms part of an intricate and interdependent web of life in which we are all a part.

How can I help protect biodiversity?

There are a number of ways individuals and communities can help protect biodiversity in their local area.

  • Create a natural habitat in your backyard. Look at plants that are native to your region and help create a backyard sanctuary for local birds and wildlife.
  • Get rid of weeds. What seems like a perfectly harmless plant can turn into a noxious weed if it jumps your back fence and heads into bushland. Check out what’s considered a weed in your part of the country at Weeds in Australia 
  • Be a responsible pet owner. If you can no longer keep your pet do not release it into the wild. This includes pet fish — do not flush them down the toilet or put them into local streams. Make sure your cat is de-sexed and either keep it indoors or invest in an outdoor cat run — domestic cats can have a devastating effect on local wildlife.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle. Look at ways to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill and the waterways. Many things can now be recycled. For more information on what you can recycle in your local area go to Recycling Near You or Waste and recycling
  • Start your own compost bin. Organic matter like vegetable peelings that usually ends up landfill is great for your garden. Start composting and you can reduce the need for chemicals and fertilizers in the garden and improve the health of your soil.
  • Only put water down the drains. Things like oils and chemicals may start at the kitchen sink but end up in our waterways and seas and can affect animals and plants living in streams and rivers. Instead of using commercial cleaning chemicals try using white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Be an informed seafood eater. Don’t eat threatened fish species. To find out what species you should avoid at the fish market go to Find a Fish — 
  • Understand what you can and can’t take with you when you travel. Some tourist souvenirs and items you buy over the internet are made from or contain derivatives of plants and animals. If you are bringing plants or animals into or out of Australia, go to Information for travellers and online shoppers
  • When you’re sailing, don’t get too close to whales and dolphins. Worldwide, whales, dolphins and porpoises face many threats, from being directly hunted to being caught in fishing nets. Ship strike, pollution, climate change, ocean noise, tourism, discarded fishing gear or other rubbish may also affect the population. They can also be loved to death by over-enthusiastic whale watchers. To find out more about how to help, go to Whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Article source: Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy