Australia’s protected area network is the backbone of our national response to biodiversity threats. In public ownership, Australia has some 550 national parks and state conservation areas covering over 28 million ha – an area that’s about the size of Victoria and Tasmania combined. There are also 70 marine parks and reserves covering 310 million ha of Commonwealth waters – an area about the size of Queensland and Northern Territory combined.
But do these reserves cover the full range of ecosystems in Australia? Are they large enough to maintain species diversity, natural interactions and evolutionary processes? Do they allow plants and animals to move through the landscape in the ways they need to? Will these reserves still provide protection to our most vulnerable species during times of stress, such as a changing climate?
These are the questions that need to be considered in the planning and design of Australia’s protected area network. With over 60 per cent of Australia privately owned, it’s becoming increasingly evident that we won’t meet our conservation targets if we rely on public funding and public land alone.
In the fifth video of our Australia’s Biodiversity series, Dr Andy Sheppard talks about the role protected areas play, how the network is designed and what the major challenges will be into the future:
To find out more about the management of Australia’s protected areas, you might like to read the corresponding chapter of CSIRO’s Biodiversity Book.
Last week’s video looked at the tools we use to restore and manage threats to Australia’s biodiversity. You can review it and the other videos in the series on our YouTube channel.