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, Environment, Water, Population & Communities GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London Telephone 020-3353 2000 guardian.co.uk
N1 9G U
October 5, 2010
Dear Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities,
I am writing on behalf of the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom and our readers worldwide to ask you to consider a proposal for protecting Australia’s biodiversity. The action has been proposed by our online readers and developed by professional scientists. It is based by scientific evidence.
We believe it will both protect an important species and habitat and send a clear signal to the negotiations at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP10 in Nagoya later this month that the decisive, concrete actions can and must be taken to halt the alarming decline in global biodiversity. Our campaign, Biodiversity 100, has identified 26 achievable actions in a number of countries and has the support of the international scientific community. We are sharing our proposals with journalists around the world, who will be able to measure the success of their national and local governments in implementing the actions we have put forward. For more details of the campaign please go to guardian.co.uk/biodiversity100.
The specific proposals we request that you consider are to implement better protection for Dingoes; protect catchments and restore natural water flows in freshwater systems, particularly the Muarray-Darling Basin; and restrict the sale of invasive plants and ornamental fish (more details below). We kindly request you to react publicly to our recommendation, both through national media and through your statements to the CBD COP10 plenary. We also urge you to consider including our proposed action when you revise your National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan after COP10. As a major international media outlet with a global audience, the Guardian takes seriously its responsibility to report on the planet’s biodiversity crisis. We would be very keen to hear back from you about your country’s efforts to protect the natural environment and, especially, to hear of your reaction to our proposal.
Alan Rusbridger Editor-in-Chief The Guardian CC: Senator the Hon Don Farrell, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water Ms. Robyn Bromley, Director, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive secretary, CBD Dingoes Action: Stop killing dingoes Description: The dingo is a declared pest in most states of Australia, and livestock farmers are obliged to cull them. This is despite their protected “native” status, “threatened” status in the state of Victoria and IUCN Red List designation as vulnerable to extinction. The dingo competes with invasive species such as cats and foxes, which prey on endemic reptiles and birds. Because it helps to reduce the abundance of cats and foxes, removing it has a detrimental knock-on effect for native species. Evidence: There is accumulating evidence that culling dingoes has contributed to the mammal extinction crisis in Australia, including studies led by Johnson (2007), Johnson and VanDerWal (2009), Wallach (2009) and Wallach (2010). Wallach (2009) also observed that baiting and shooting dingoes makes them prone to attacking lambs and crucially, that reintroducing them helps prey diversity. Maintaining a healthy dingo population is the only costeffective way to reduce the numbers of invasive cats and foxes, which are destroying much of the native fauna. Sheep and cattle farmers may oppose to this action, but one solution is to increase the use of ‘guardian’ sheep dogs to keep dingoes away from vulnerable animals. Freshwater systems Action: Protect catchments and restore natural water flows in freshwater systems, particularly the Murray-Darling Basin Description: The rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin in south-east Australia are currently flowing at only 40 per cent of their natural capacity, even in an average non-drought year, due to extensive water extraction for agriculture. Wetland sites should be protected under the international Ramsar Convention, but in practice Australian wetland and river biodiversity is threatened by proposed dams, such as the Tillegra Dam in New South Wales and Meander Dam in Tasmania. Another threat comes from alien fish species such as carp, trout and tilapia. Scientists would like to see much less water diverted for irrigation, the construction of new dams halted and better control of alien species. Farmers should also be incentivised to plant less water-intensive crops than cotton and rice, and improve river banks by planting shrubs and trees. Evidence: Farmers need to be encouraged with incentives to plant crops that are suitable for their environment according to Adamson (2009) – as explained in this a video clip. This will reduce the need for irrigation on crops such as cotton and rice in dry areas. Dams cause major habitat loss for freshwater and riverside species, and also create barriers for migratory fish species (also a result of ineffective fishways) and facilitate exotic species introductions. Dams
cause major habitat loss for freshwater and riparian species, as a result of inundation of breeding and foraging grounds. They also facilitate exotic species introductions. Invasive Plants Action: Restrict the sale of invasive plants Description: Scientists in Australia are calling for an immediate ban on the sale of all plants listed as invasive species. Australian plant species and even entire ecosystems will benefit. The weed lantana, for example, has degraded more than four million hectares of Australian rangelands. To make such a ban a success will require effective monitoring with penalties for non-compliance; developing best-practice guidelines for commercial gardening enterprises; the removal of invasive species in public green spaces; and education and encouragement for the public to replace lawns with regionally-appropriate grasses. Evidence: More than 60 species of high conservation value plants are threatened nationwide because of competition with weeds. Weeds have a huge impact on Australian biodiversity and are estimated to cost AU$4bn annually to the Australian economy. A report for the WWF lists more than 90 species that currently pose a significant threat to biodiversity in Australia yet are commonly available in nurseries. It also highlights native and non-invasive species that could serve as alternatives. Ornamental fish Action: Restrict the sale of invasive ornamental fish Description: The ornamental fish trade in Australia is worth US $350m per year, however many of these fish species escape and establish in natural water systems, causing native fish and amphibian populations to decline. Currently, about 210 exotic species can be imported into Australia without an import permit. To prevent further introductions of non-native ornamental fish, their sale must be more tightly regulated and their import, sale and ownership should be controlled through a permit system even if they are not yet declared as invasive. There should be effective enforcement of sanctions for individuals and businesses who breach these permits. Also, the import of coral for aquariums should be subject to Australian quarantine restrictions to prevent release of marine organisms. Evidence: “Of the 34 alien fish species with established feral populations in Australian waters, 22 are thought to have come into the country via the ornamental fish trade,” writes Mark Lintermans. These alien fish have caused massive population declines in native fish and amphibian species, and competition for food or predation may lead to the eventual displacement of these species. Quarantine of live rock imports is necessary because marine organisms, such as jellyfish polyps, which exist on the surface of coral rock, pose a potential threat to the marine environment if released. For the full version of this text with links to scientific papers, please visit the Biodiversity 100 site: guardian.co.uk/biodiversity100