1 Why is it important?

Biodiversity is the variety of all life forms, from genes to species to entire ecosystems, that occur in all environments on Earth—land, water, air and sea. Healthy, natural ecosystems underpin South Australia’s economic, environmental, cultural and social wellbeing.

The components of biodiversity, including animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, invertebrates), vegetation, soil, biogeochemical cycles and microorganisms, provide a range of essential ecosystem services. ‘Ecosystem services’ describes the benefits that humans derive from the environment, such as:

  • purification of air and water
  • pollination, seed dispersal and pest control
  • soil generation and fertilisation
  • detoxification and decomposition of wastes
  • flood and drought mitigation
  • ultraviolet protection
  • stabilisation of climate.

For example, the rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Murray–Darling Basin are estimated to provide $187 billion in ecosystem services each year (Lindenmayer 2007). Biodiversity also provides the basis for many economic uses. For example, apart from our obvious use of crops and domestic animals, invertebrates such as worms, ants, spiders, wasps, leafhoppers and mites are being used in adhesives, antibiotics and industrial products.

The South Australian Government’s No Species Loss Strategy (Government of South Australia 2007a), the State Natural Resources Management Plan (Government of South Australia 2012) and the state of the environment report for South Australia in 2008 (EPA 2008) all report that, despite our efforts, biodiversity in South Australia continues to decline. Climate change impacts are expected to exacerbate the decline.

The following messages about Australia’s biodiversity in Australia state of the environment 2011 (State of the Environment 2011 Committee 2011) equally apply to South Australia:

  • Biodiversity has declined since European settlement.
  • Pressures are not being substantially reduced, nor is the decline in biodiversity being arrested or reversed.
  • Most pressures on biodiversity that arise directly or indirectly from human activities appear to still be strong.
  • The major future drivers of change—climate change, population growth, economic development and associated consumption of natural resources—must be managed carefully if a sustainable relationship between biodiversity and human society is to be achieved.
  • Data on long-term trends in biodiversity are limited, making it difficult to interpret the state or trends of major animal and plant groups.
  • Australia can improve its biodiversity management.

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