By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists be warned that man and nature are “on colliding paths”. Seventeen years later, scientists explain planetary boundaries where humans and other lives can have “safe spaces to operate”. These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
Crossing such boundaries is considered a risk that will cause such a large change in the environment as to create problems existential threat to mankind.
It is this grim reality that is our main research paper, published Thursday, face.
In what is perhaps the most comprehensive evaluation of the state of the environment in Australia, we show major and iconic ecosystems are collapsing across the continent and into Antarctica. This system sustains life, and evidence of its death shows that we are transcending planetary boundaries.
We found 19 Australian ecosystems met our criteria to be classified as “collapsed”. This includes arid interiors, savanna and mangrove Northern Australia, that is Great Barrier Reef, Shark Bay, South Australia kelp and alpine ash forest, tundra on Macquarie Island, and moss in Antarctica.
We define collapse as a state in which an ecosystem has changed substantially and negatively from its original state – such as loss of species or habitat, or reduced vegetation or coral cover – and is unlikely to recover.
Good and Bad News
person An ecosystem consists of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like super-complex machines: when some components are removed or stop working, the knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.
Our studies are based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Happily, not all of the ecosystems we studied collapsed across the entire range. We still have, for example, some intact coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in the deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least modified expanses of savanna forest on Earth.
However, collapses are still occurring, including in critical areas for growing food. This includes Murray-Darling Valley, which covers about 14% of mainland Australia. Rivers and other freshwater systems support more than 30% of the Australian diet production.
The effects of floods, fires, heat waves and storms don’t stop at the farm gate; they are felt the same in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We must not forget how the cities ran out drinking water during the recent drought.
Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our catchments. In Victoria, for example, giant relegation Mountain Ash Forest greatly reduced the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening the drinking water of nearly five million people in Melbourne.
This is terrible Wake up call – not only warning. Frankly speaking, current changes across continents, and their potential results, pose existential threats to our survival, and to other lives we share the environment with.
In investigating collapse patterns, we found that most ecosystems are experiencing multiple simultaneous stresses from global climate change and human regional impacts (such as land clearing). Stress occurs frequently additives and extreme.
Take for example the last 11 years in Western Australia.
In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a heat wave covering more than 300,000 square kilometers destroying marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The extreme heat destroys forests and forests, seaweed forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.
A record ocean heat wave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another ocean heat wave is predicted This April.
These 19 ecosystems are collapsing: read about each
What should be done about it?
person Our brain trust consists of 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO, and the federal Department of Water and Agricultural Environment. In addition to measuring and reporting more doom and gloom, we ask the question: what can be done?
We designed a simple but easy to setup scheme called 3A:
- Awareness of what is important
- Anticipate what will happen
- Actions to stop stress or deal with impact.
In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. A lot has happened. In some cases, ecosystems may be better left to recover on their own, such as corals after a cyclone.
In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby’s black cockatoos in areas where old trees have grown. deleted.
Actions that are “ready for the future” are also important. This includes restoring cultural burning practices, which has various values and benefits to the Aboriginal community and can help minimize the risk and strength of forest fires.
It may also include replanting riverside along the Murray River with more suitable species warmer conditions.
Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.
For example, billions of migratory Bogong moths, the main summer food for endangered mountain dwarf possums, have not arrived in typical numbers in Australia’s mountainous regions in recent years. This was made worse by 2019-20 Fire. Brilliant, Victoria Zoo anticipating this pressure and developing food additives – Bogong bicycle.
Other actions that are more challenging, global or large-scale must be dealt with the root cause of environmental threats, as human population growth and per capita consumption environmental resources.
We must immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, eliminating or suppressing such invasive species wild cat and buffel grass, and stopped spreading land clearing and other forms of habitat destruction.
Our Life Depends on It
The collapse of the various ecosystems we have documented in Australia is a sign for environment globally.
The simplicity of 3A is to show people can do something positive, either at the local land-care group level, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.
We could not delay any further.
Dana M Bergstrom is the principal research scientist at Wollongong University. Euan Ritchie is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Center for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. Lesley Hughes is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. Michael Depledge is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter.
Disclosure statement: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. His research includes fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.
Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is the Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.
Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. He is a Board Member on the Australian Climate Council, member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and Director of WWF-Australia.
Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own stock or receive funds from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and does not disclose relevant affiliations outside of their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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