I got off a flight from Albury to Melbourne on Tuesday morning, turned on mobile phone and there was a message from a journalist asking for comment on claims by Professor Norman Myer that we were losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. My first question was, who is Norman Myer? And my second question was, is he talking about Australia? The ABC radio journalist couldn’t answer either question.
When I turned on my computer I found this story at ABC Online:
“Scientists say Earth is experiencing the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.
Environmental scientist Professor Norman Myers says the loss of species is more severe than the five mass extinctions of the geological past.
“In the lifetime of many [television news] viewers we could lose half of all those 10 million species around the world,” he said.
There are 33 extinction hotspots around the world. The Australia Museum’s Frank Howarth says two are in Australia and up to 80 per cent of the crucial habitat has been wiped out.
“One [is] north Queensland rainforest, the other is in south-western Australia but in Australian terms we have a lot of areas where we have real competition between endemic animals that are found nowhere else,” Mr Howarth said.
Green groups say current measures to protect sensitive habitats are not effective. “The Australian Government is investing a lot of money in biodiversity but it’s not being invested in the most responsible way,” Nicola Beynon, from the Humane Society International, said.
Professor Myers says if governments do not do more, the planet will continue to lose 50 species per day compared to the natural extinction rate of one species every five years.“
Can anyone name me some of the 50 species that are going extinct every day?
Anyway, I emailed the link to a few readers of this blog for comment. I am starting with this response from Neil Hewett who lives in a north Queensland rainforest:
Biodiversity hotspots are areas that are deemed BOTH rich in plant and animal species, particularly with many endemic species AND ALSO under immediate threat from impacts such as land clearing, development pressures, salinity, weeds and feral animals.
Along with Madagascar and New Caledonia, the rainforests of north Queensland including the Daintree are recognised as one of three centres of global endemism. They contain an extraordinary biodiversity; the majority of species which are classified as either rare or threatened with extinction, and undisputedly conform with the first-mentioned criterion as a Biodiversity hotspot.
But are they under immediate threat from impacts such as land clearing, development pressures, salinity, weeds and feral animals?
And yet, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee, with input from recognised experts in the field of biodiversity conservation from each Australian State and Territory, determined otherwise.
In respect to the contemporary popularity of tree-frogs, which are recognised as early indicators of environmental stress, I am advised from time to time that certain endemic species are thought to have become extinct, whilst others are disappearing.
The above image of a green-eyed tree-frog is one of the latter. I found one during the day, some time ago, when I coincidentally took balance from a tree and registered a cold, wet sensation under my grip.
Upon meticulous scrutiny and after several minutes, I finally recognised the curvature of the eye. Its camouflage was superb.
I have the very great privilege of scrutinising the central Cooper Creek portion of the ancient Daintree rainforest, on a nightly basis and have done so for over twelve consecutive years. Indeed, I believe that I have familiarised myself with the nocturnal landscape of the Daintree more thoroughly than any other person in human history. On those exceptionally wet and rare nights when conditions are suitable for green-eyed tree-frogs to congregate for communal mating events, I might encounter 2000 frogs in two hours and yet I have never seen a research scientist crossing the flooded watercourses to get into the real action.
The politics of places like the Daintree are as dark and complex and densely interwoven as the jungle understorey itself. I suspect that the exclusion from the country’s biodiversity hotspots reflects the federal coalition government’s contempt for the Queensland and local government’s popularist land-grab mentality.
If you would like to send me information about one or more of the “50 species we are losing” every day and/or one of the ‘biodiveristy hotspots’ and/or a species of plant or animal that you consider vulnerable to extinction and/or that you believe has been incorrectly listed as rare, threatened or vulnerable to extinction, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.