Queenslanders have been urged to ___act early, act local___ to save large tracts of the Australian landscape from shifting into radically-altered states.

Griffith University researchers in conjunction with a team of leading ecologists from the Innovative Research Universities (IRUs) today released a list of the continent’s ten most highly-threatened environments.

They warn that these environments are all at risk of reaching ‘tipping points’ where they may change rapidly and irreversibly into alien landscapes, often dominated by introduced or unfamiliar species.

“Nine of the ten most vulnerable ecosystems in Australia occur here in Queensland. The IRU team has identified and prioritised the key threats to these ecosystems. Unless all parties in the upcoming State election make a commitment to addressing these threats, Queensland faces an irreversible and catastrophic loss to our biodiversity,” says Griffith researcher and School of Environment Head, Professor Hamish McCallum.

“If these ecosystems reach “tipping points”, there will be major consequences for our tourism industry, primary industries, and the well-being of the entire Queensland community.

“This needs to be a major issue in the forthcoming election.”

The IRU has published “Protecting Australia’s most endangered landscapes”, ranking landscapes according to the extent of their vulnerability and the scale of threats to them.

Based upon recently published peer reviewed research, it shows that Australia’s ten most endangered landscapes and their main threats, in order are:

1. Mountain ecosystems: threatened by global warming, fire and human impacts.

2. Tropical savannas: invasive plants and animals, huge bushfires, extreme events.

3. Coastal floodplains and wetlands: sea-level rise, human development activity and climate change.

4. Coral reefs: ocean warming, ocean acidification, overfishing, coastal runoff.

5. Dry rainforests: changing fire regimes, hotter temperatures, water regime changes.

6. Murray-Darling Basin: overexploitation, water regime changes, salinisation.

7. Southwest dry sclerophyll forests and heathlands: water regime changes, hotter conditions, extreme events.

8. Offshore islands: invasive plants and animals, extreme events, ocean changes.

9. Temperate eucalypt forests: hotter temperatures and changes in fire and water regimes.

10. Mangroves and salt marshes: hotter temperatures, rising sea-levels, water regime changes.

The IRU ecologists warn that in many ecosystems the shift towards tipping points is happening quite rapidly — and remedial action needs to be both prompt and effective.

“Australians naturally love the Australian landscape. It would be a great tragedy if future Australians do not get to see and enjoy it as we have seen and enjoyed it — simply because their parents neglected their responsibility to manage it wisely.”

The assessment of the 10 most vulnerable ecosystems are identified as a first step toward a coherent national plan of action.

IRU Publication link — “Protecting Australia’s most endangered landscapes”

IRU is a network of seven comprehensive Australian universities, conducting research of national and international standing. The network has national reach, with a presence in every mainland State in Australia and the Northern Territory. Collectively the network operates in over 40 locations, with a focus on outer metropolitan and provincial cities.