The Australian environment ranges from virtually pristine Antarctic territory and rainforests to degraded industrial areas of major cities. Forty distinct ecoregions have been identified across the Australian mainland and islands.
Central Australia has a very dry climate. The interior has a number of deserts while most of the coastal areas are populated. Northern Australia experiences tropical cyclones while much of the country is prone to periodic drought.
Agriculture and mining are the predominant land uses which affect the Australian environment. The management of the impact on the environment from the mining industry, the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, forests and native animals are recurring issues of conservation.
Clean Up Australia Day was an initiative developed in 1989 to collaboratively clean up local areas and is held on the first Sunday of autumn (in March).
Major environmental issues in Australia include whaling, logging of old growth forest, irrigation and its impact on the Murray River, Darling River and Macquarie Marshes, acid sulfate soils, soil salinity, land clearing, soil erosion, uranium mining and nuclear waste, creation of marine reserves, air quality in major cities and around polluting industries and infrastructure, pesticide and herbicide impacts and growing of genetically modified food.
Increased coal mining in Australia is contentious because of the effects of global warming on Australia, emissions to air from coal burning power stations, dust, subsidence, impact on rivers like the Hunter River and other water users, failure to adequately restore mined areas, and lack of sustainability. As an example, in 1999 Australia's energy consumption of coal and coal products was 47,364 thousand metric tons oil equivalent, compared to that of the world's energy consumption of coal and coal products which totalled 2,278,524 (also measured in thousand metric tons oil equivalent).
Climate change and global warming are of particular concern because of the likely effects of global warming on agriculture, the Great Barrier Reef and tourism industry, human health through mosquito-borne crydiologicyticlogy. Sea level rise could also have a profound impact on under levelled and poorer communities and waterfront suburbs. The range of rises forecast by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report would be sufficient to have impacts in many areas, and if the Greenland ice cap melts faster than forecast, it could have a disastrous impact.
In urban areas, noise and odour are major sources of complaints to environmental protection authorities.
Protected areas cover 895,288 km2 of Australia's land area, or about 11.5% of the total land area. Of these, two-thirds are considered strictly protected (IUCN categories I to IV), and the rest is mostly managed resources protected area (IUCN category VI). There are also 200 marine protected areas, which cover a further 64.8 million hectares. Indigenous Protected Area have been established since the 1990s, the largest of which covers part of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory.
The protected natural areas include world heritage listed properties, such as the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte), Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, Fraser Island, Great Barrier Reef, Greater Blue Mountains Area, Heard and McDonald Islands, Lord Howe Island, Macquarie Island, Purnululu National Park, Shark Bay, and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
Protected mixed World Heritage listed areas include Tasmanian Wilderness, Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, Willandra Lakes Region and Kakadu National Park. Ningaloo Reef and Cape Range peninsula are submitted and on the Tentative List for World Heritage listing and are Australian National Parks.
Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it covers a diverse range of habitats, from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the great age and consequent low levels of fertility of the continent, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 65 wetlands are listed under the Ramsar Convention, and 16 World Heritage Sites have been established. Australia was ranked 13th in the world on the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index.
Most Australian woody plant species are evergreen and many are adapted to fire and drought, including many eucalyptus and acacias. Australia has a rich variety of endemic legume species that thrive in nutrient-poor soils because of their symbiosis with Rhizobia bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Well-known Australian fauna include monotremes (the platypus and echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, koala, wombat; and birds such as the emu and kookaburra. The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE. Many plant and animal species became extinct soon after first human settlement, including the Australian megafauna; others have become extinct since European settlement, among them the thylacine.
Australia is the second driest continent (after Antarctica), and frequent droughts have led to the introduction of water restrictions in all parts of Australia. This has led to concern about water security in Australia by environmentalists, irrigators and state and federal governments. Diversion and capture of natural water flows for irrigation in Australia has been responsible for dramatic changes in environmental water flows, particularly in the Murray–Darling basin. The major part of Snowy River flows was diverted by the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Tons of CO2 per year per capita (as of 2005, without land-use changes):
The State of the Environment (SoE) section has responsibility for environmental reporting and implements two key interrelated initiatives: the State of the Environment report and the Essential Environmental Measures for Australia program.
State of the Environment report
The SoE section leads the development and production of the Australia: State of the Environment. The report is a comprehensive national assessment of the state of our environment produced every five years based on the best available evidence. It is tabled in accordance with section 516B of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act 1999, by the Minister for the Environment and Energy. The SoE report provides a vital resource for policy makers, industry and NGOs, educational institutions, the science community and the general public.
Essential Environmental Measures for Australia
The section also leads the development of the Essential Environmental Measures (EEM) program to strengthen environmental reporting. The EEM program aims to improve our capacity to track trends in the State of Australia's environment and engages with environmental experts to:
Over time, it is anticipated that information provided through the program will become a core component of the evidence used to inform national state of the environment reporting and environmental-economic accounting.
The southwest coastal area has a Mediterranean climate and was originally heavily forested, including large stands of the karri, one of the tallest trees in the world. This agricultural region of Western Australia is in the top nine terrestrial habitats for terrestrial biodiversity, with a higher proportion of endemic species than most other equivalent regions. Thanks to the offshore Leeuwin Current the area numbers in the top six regions for marine biodiversity, containing the most southerly coral reefs in the world. Average annual rainfall varies from 300 millimetres (12 in) at the edge of the Wheatbelt region to 1,400 millimetres (55 in) in the wettest areas near Northcliffe, but in the months of November to March evaporation exceeds rainfall, and it is generally very dry. Plants must be adapted to this as well as the extreme poverty of all soils. A major reduction in winter rainfall has been observed since the mid-1970s, with a greater number of extreme rainfall events in the summer months. The central four-fifths of the state is semiarid or desert and is lightly inhabited with the only significant activity being mining. Annual rainfall averages 200–250 millimetres (8–10 in), most of which occurs in sporadic torrential falls related to cyclone events in summer months. An exception to this is the northern tropical regions. The Kimberley has an extremely hot monsoonal climate with average annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 1,500 millimetres (20–60 in), but there is a very long almost rainless season from April to November. Eighty-five percent of the state's runoff occurs in the Kimberley, but because it occurs in violent floods and because of the insurmountable poverty of the generally shallow soils, the only development has taken place along the Ord River.
The black swan is the state bird of Western Australia.
The red-and-green kangaroo paw is the floral emblem of Western Australia.
Occurrence of snow in the state is rare, and typically only in the Stirling Range near Albany, as it is the only mountain range far enough south and with sufficient elevation. More rarely, snow can fall on the nearby Porongurup Range. Snow outside these areas is a major event; it usually occurs in hilly areas of southwestern Australia. The most widespread low-level snow occurred on 26 June 1956 when snow was reported in the Perth Hills, as far north as Wongan Hills and as far east as Salmon Gums. However, even in the Stirling Range, snowfalls rarely exceed 5 cm (2 in) and rarely settle for more than one day. The highest observed maximum temperature of 50.5 °C (122.9 °F) was recorded at Mardie Station on 19 February 1998. The lowest minimum temperature recorded was −7.2 °C (19.0 °F) at Eyre Bird Observatory on 17 August 2008.
Low relative humidity, wind and lack of rain from hot and dry in the interior to the milder, wetter climates of the south.
A Big Fix: Radical Solutions for Australia's Environmental Crisis is a 2005 book by Ian Lowe which argues that the warnings from environmental scientists are urgent and unequivocal. Professor Lowe suggests that resources are being used too quickly, environmental systems are being compromised, and society is being destabilised by the increasing gap between rich and poor. Lowe proposes several radical solutions. He advocates a fundamental change to our personal values and social institutions and provides a vision of a healthier society – one that is more humane, takes an eco-centric approach, adopts longer-term thinking, and respects natural systems.Australian Biological Resources Study
Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) is a project undertaken by Parks Australia Division of Australia's Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA).
ABRS was founded in 1973 from the recommendations of a 1972 Senate Select Committee report on Wildlife Conservation.Its purpose is to collate from the many libraries, museums and other collections the taxonomy of Australia's estimated 2 million species of flora and fauna, including aquatic species.
These represent almost 20% of the earth's biodiversity, 80% of which are unique to Australia. ABRS has undertaken active funding for taxonomic research of Australia's biodiversity and is internationally recognised for its extensive data bases and publications.
The most important outputs of the ABRS has been the publication of the multi-volume Flora of Australia and Fauna of Australia series.
Other output includes The Banksia Atlas and the "Platypus" database package for taxonomists.Australian Heritage Commission
The Australian Heritage Commission (AHC) was the Australian federal government authority established in 1975 as the first body to manage natural and cultural heritage in Australia until its demise in 2004.Australian Total Diet Survey
The Australian Total Diet Survey, formerly known as the Australian Market Basket Survey, is an assessment of consumers' dietary exposure to pesticide residues, contaminants, and other substances.Biofuel in Australia
Biofuel is fuel that is produced from organic matter (biomass), including plant materials and animal waste. It is considered a renewable source of energy that can assist in reducing carbon emissions. The two main types of biofuel currently being produced in Australia are biodiesel and bioethanol, used as replacements for diesel and petrol (gasoline) respectively. As of 2017 Australia is a relatively small producer of biofuels, accounting for 0.2% of world bioethanol production and 0.1% of world biodiesel production.In 2016-17, biofuels contributed only 0.5% of the total liquid and gaseous transport fuel energy mix in Australia.Total commercial biofuel production for 2018 is estimated at 290 million liters (ML): 250ML of ethanol and 40ML of biodiesel.This article mainly deals with biofuels for personal vehicles, though cooking, heating and electricity generation can also use biofuel. Historically in Australia cooking and home heating have been accomplished by burning wood, a biofuel. 909,000 households in Australia still used firewood as their main heating method in 2005, with a further 300,000 using firewood occasionally.Biosecurity in Australia
Biosecurity is monitored to protect plant and animal health in Australia, and to protect the agricultural economy. Biosecurity Australia, an arm of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, provides policy advice and assessment.Bush Blitz
Bush Blitz is a species discovery program conducting scientific surveys in Australian terrestrial and marine environments to document known and new fungi, plants and animals. The program is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. Bush Blitz is managed through Parks Australia and the Australian Biological Resources Study. The program began in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, involving specialist taxonomists, indigenous communities, rangers and landowners, teachers, students and BHP Billiton employees. Bush Blitz funds taxonomy and further research based on material collected during Bush Blitz surveys, specifically targeted to assist in the publication of new species and the resolution of problematic groups collected from surveys.Continental Stress Class
Continental Stress Class is a method of describing the landscape health of biogeographic regions in Australia. There are six Continental Stress Classes with Class 1 containing the most stressed regions and Class 6 the least stressed and therefore most healthy. The classification takes into account indicators of landscape health such as the extent, condition, connectivity, and rate of clearing of native vegetation; changes to soil and hydrological conditions; the presence of feral plants and animals; the presence of threatened species and ecological communities; and threats such as dryland salinity; and fire regime.
Continental Stress Classes were first introduced by Gethin Morgan in 2001, in the report Landscape Health In Australia: A rapid assessment of the relative condition of Australia's bioregions and subregions. Morgan gave a class to each of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) subregions, as follows:
Class One: 17 subregions, including the Avon Wheatbelt, the Tasmanian Midlands and numerous subregions in south eastern Australia, including most of Victoria;
Class Two: 20 subregions;
Class Three: 90 subregions;
Class Four: 75 subregions;
Classes Five and Six: 152 subregions.The classification is now used by a range of federal and state government agencies in Australia.Department of the Environment and Energy
The Department of the Environment and Energy is an Australian government department.
The Department is responsible for matters including environment protection and conservation of biodiversity as well as energy policy. It was established in July 2016 by the Turnbull Government after the 2016 federal election.
Following the appointment of Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg was elevated to Treasurer of Australia, whereby Frydenberg's previous ministerial positions were separated, with Melissa Price as Minister of the Environment and Angus Taylor as Minister for Energy.Drought in Australia
Drought in Australia is defined by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as rainfall over a three-month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns including seasonal variations. Specifically, drought in Australia is defined in relation to a rainfall deficiency of pastoral leases and is determined by decile analysis applied to a certain area. Note that this definition uses rainfall only because long-term records are widely available across most of Australia. However, it does not take into account other variables that might be important for establishing surface water balance, such as evaporation and condensation.
Historical climatic records are now sufficiently reliable to profile climate variability taking into account expectations for regions. Bureau of Meteorology records since the 1860s show that a ‘severe’ drought has occurred in Australia, on average, once every 18 years. State Governments are responsible for declaring a region drought affected and the declaration will take into account factors other than rainfall.The worst drought to affect the country occurred in the 21st century—between the years 2003 to 2012. Nonetheless, many regions of Australia are still in significant drought, and rainfall records have showed a marked decrease in precipitation levels since 1994, with many scientists attributing this to climate change and global warming. Deficiencies in northern Australia increased in 2013–14, leading to an extended drought period in certain parts of Queensland.EarthCheck
EarthCheck (previously known as EC3 Global), an international tourism advisory group. It is headquartered in Brisbane, Queensland and was developed by the Sustainable Tourism CRC, the world’s largest dedicated research centre specialising in sustainable tourism and research.
In June 2010, the Sustainable Tourism CRC (STCRC), completed its formal research agreement with the Australian Commonwealth Government. As one of Australia's most successful research centres, it evolved into three International legacy projects. These include Sustainable Tourism Online, the not-for-profit EarthCheck Research Institute (ERI) and the APEC International Centre for Sustainable Tourism. All of these centres for excellence are supported by EarthCheck.EarthCheck is known to be a world leader in the field of tourism sustainability verification and certification.Energy rating label
In Australia and New Zealand, an energy rating label or energy rating is a label affixed to various appliances prior to retail sale, which allows consumers to compare the energy efficiency of product and allows consumers to know how much power a particular model will use to run. They allow consumers to compare the energy consumption of similar products, and factor lifetime running cost into their purchasing decision. The energy rating label is a mandatory comparison label under Australian regulations for store sales but not for products sold online. The label comprises an energy consumption figure for the appliance and a star rating. The energy consumption figure is an estimate of how much energy (in kilowatt-hours or kWh) the appliance will use over a year, based on assumptions about “average usage”.
However, actual energy consumption will depend on how an appliance is used and how often it is used. Factors like climate can also influence energy consumption (and efficiency) for some appliances.
The energy rating label usually incorporates an energy star label, which is an endorsement label that is not regulated by the Australian Government. It is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products that originated in the United States. Appliances and equipment that qualify to carry the energy star mark are generally in the top 25% most energy efficient products. In Australia, the label is used for office equipment and home electronics. New Zealand uses the energy star label for a much wider range of products such as whitegoods, lighting, heating, water heating and windows.Environmental issues in Australia
Environmental issues in Australia describes a number of environmental issues which affect the environment of Australia. There are a range of such issues, some of the relating to conservation in Australia while others, for example the deteriorating state of Murray-Darling Basin, have a direct and serious effect on human land use and the economy.
Many human activities including the use of natural resources have a direct impact on the Australian environment.
These issues are the primary concern of the environmental movement in Australia.Geography of Sydney
The geography of Sydney is characterised by its coastal location on a basin bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north and the Woronora Plateau to the south. Sydney lies on a submergent coastline on the east coast of New South Wales, where the ocean level has risen to flood deep river valleys (rias) carved in the Sydney sandstone. Port Jackson, better known as Sydney Harbour, is one such ria.The Sydney area lies on Triassic shales and sandstones. The region mostly consists of low rolling hills and wide valleys in a rain shadow area. Sydney sprawls over two major regions: the Cumberland Plain, a relatively flat region lying to the west of Sydney Harbour, and the Hornsby Plateau, a plateau north of the Harbour rising to 200 metres and dissected by steep valleys. Sydney's native plant species are predominantly eucalyptus trees, and its soils are usually red and yellow in texture. The endemic flora is home to a variety of bird, insect, reptile and mammal species, which are conspicuous in urban areas.There are more than 70 harbour and ocean beaches in the urban area. Most of Sydney's water storages are on tributaries of the Nepean River. Parramatta River drains a large area of Sydney's western suburbs. With 5,005,400 inhabitants (as of 2016) and an urban population density of 2037 people per square kilometre, Sydney's urban area covers 1,788 km² (690 mi²), comprising 35% of Sydney and is constantly growing.Hunter River (New South Wales)
The Hunter River is a major river in New South Wales, Australia. The Hunter River rises in the Liverpool Range and flows generally south and then east, reaching the Tasman Sea at Newcastle, the second largest city in New South Wales and a major harbour port. Its lower reaches form an open and trained mature wave dominated barrier estuary.List of Australian environmental books
This is a list of Australian environmental books:
Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism (1997), by Sharon Beder
Human Ecology, Human Economy: Ideas for an Ecologically Sustainable Future (1997), edited by Mark Diesendorf and Clive Hamilton
Running from the Storm: The Development of Climate Change Policy in Australia (2001), by Clive Hamilton
A Big Fix: Radical Solutions for Australia's Environmental Crisis (2005), by Ian Lowe
Living in the Hothouse: How Global Warming Affects Australia (2005), by Ian Lowe
The Weather Makers (2005), by Tim Flannery
Environmental Principles and Policies (2006), by Sharon Beder
Patriots: Defending Australia's Natural Heritage (2006), by William J Lines
Chasing Kangaroos (2007), by Tim Flannery
Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy (2007), by Mark Diesendorf
High and Dry: John Howard, Climate Change and the Selling of Australia's Future (2007), by Guy Pearse
The 3rd Degree: Frontline in Australia's Climate War (2007), by Murray Hogarth
Maralinga: Australia’s Nuclear Waste Cover-up (2007), by Alan Parkinson
Reaction Time: Climate Change and the Nuclear Option (2007), by Ian Lowe
Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change (2007), by Clive Hamilton
Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action (2008), by David Spratt and Philip Sutton
Now or Never: A Sustainable Future for Australia? (2008), by Tim Flannery
Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom (2009), by Guy Pearse
Requiem for a Species (2010), by Clive HamiltonSupervising Scientist
The Supervising Scientist is a statutory office under Australian law, originally created to assist in the monitoring of what was then one of the world's largest uranium mines, the Ranger Uranium Mine. It now provides advice more generally on a 'wide range of scientific matters and mining-related environmental issues of national importance, including; radiological matters and tropical wetlands conservation and management'. The Supervising Scientist is administered as a division within the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.Sustainable Tourism CRC
Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC), headquartered in Gold Coast, Queensland, was an Australian Cooperative Research Centre established by the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres Program to establish a competitive and dynamic sustainable tourism industry in Australia. It ceased to operate on 30 June 2010.STCRC is a not-for-profit company owned by its industry, government and university partners. STCRC stands as the world’s largest travel and tourism research centre.The Transition Decade
The Transition Decade is a non-partisan shared campaign which is coordinated by an alliance of Australian community, social, and environmental groups, non-profits and NGOs. The initiative forms a unified plan to campaign, lobby and work to restore safe climate conditions and a sustainable future.The initiative emerged from the Victorian sustainability movement and expanded to encompass the rest of Australia. Organisations and community groups involved include; Friends of the Earth, Beyond Zero Emissions, Climate Emergency Network, Sustainable Living Foundation, Transition Network, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Yarra Climate Action Now, Darebin Climate Action Now, Climate Action Moreland, Sustainable Living Tasmania, Environment Victoria, Alternative Technology Association and 100% Renewable campaign.
A number of organisations have been advocating for and working in a ten-year time frame, the Transition Decade initiative integrates this work to strengthen resources and to connect movements that are influencing policy and local action.
Environment of Oceania
of New Zealand
and other territories