Landclearing | wwf


* This page has been archived and is no longer updated.
[Created on 10/11/2005]

Broadscale clearing of mature bushland remains the number one threat to the survival of animal and plant species in Australia.

The WWF campaign team focuses its efforts on Queensland and has recently developed asks on the Western Australian government to control wholesale land clearing around Perth - the most sprawling city in the world! We have also contributed to a government policy to end broadscale clearing of ecologically important native vegetation in NSW.

WWF-Australia offers practical, science-based solutions to the landscape management issues facing our nation today. Our key aim is ensuring a reduction in broadscale clearing in every state, and that Australians find new ways to work with healthy landscapes for a healthy future.

Effects of land clearing

  • Loss and fragmentation of species habitat
The Australian Government's State of the Environment Report (2001) named land clearing the single biggest threat to wildlife in Australia.

For example, upwards of 90% of some native vegetation communities in the Southwest Australia Ecoregion has been cleared, largely for agriculture. This area, supporting the highest concentration of rare and endangered species on the continent, is home to Gilbert's potoroo, now listed as critically endangered.

  • Salinity
The clearing of mature bushland, and/or its replacement with shallow rooted crops and pastures, has led to the occurrence of dryland salinity in many parts of Australia.

Dryland salinity occurs where too much water enters the groundwater table, which causes underground salt to rise to the surface.

In the Murray-Darling Basin alone - an area that supports 40% of Australian farms and contains around 75% of our irrigated land - close to 5.7 million hectares are at risk or affected by salinity.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
Over 13% of Australia's total carbon dioxide emissions is generated by the burning and decay of cleared vegetation, and the subsequent soil emissions. This is almost equivalent to emissions from the entire transport sector - every car, truck, train, bus and plane in Australia.

  • Financial pressure
Due to falling commodity prices, rising farm costs and other factors, many landholders are financially pressured to put more land under production or manage partially cleared land more intensively.

  • Conversion of native forests to plantations
Native forests are cut down to grow tree farms (plantations), causing areas rich in plant and animal species to become biological deserts in relative terms.

Single species plantations lack a natural diversity of the ecosystems they replaced; and frequently have a vastly altered value as habitat or food sources for native wildlife.

Tax incentives and subsidies (through the Regional Forestry Agreements established by the State and Federal Governments) that support the conversion of native forests to plantations are now driving native forest replacement, especially in Tasmania and NSW.