The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia today welcomed global attention being drawn today to the plight of an Aussie icon … the eucalypt tree.
A just-released update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveals almost 25% of eucalypt species are threatened with extinction.
More than 98% of eucalypt species occur only in Australia. The IUCN says in Australia eucalypts “face threats from human use of land, especially agriculture and urbanisation”.
The IUCN also raised concerns for koalas adding: “Eucalypts including the Vulnerable Eucalyptus moluccana are the sole food source for the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which has declined significantly due to loss of eucalypt habitat”.
WWF-Australia Senior Manager Land Clearing and Restoration Dr Stuart Blanch said: “Deforestation and global heating are threatening the survival of eucalypts across Australia.”
“It’s not just individual eucalypt species at risk. Entire forest ecosystems dominated by eucalypts are endangered. Some have been cleared down to less than 10% - or even 5% - of their original extent.
“Australia only lists 76 eucalypt species as threatened while the IUCN lists 198 eucalypt species as threatened, suggesting the federal government should urgently re-assess the plight of these iconic trees.
“The bushfires have scorched large areas of eucalypts and we hope those forests are still alive and can sprout new leaves.
“There’s hope for eucalypts and other tree species if we take the right action now. That’s why WWF has launched our bold new strategy – Towards Two Billion Trees – which shows how Australia can save and grow two billion trees by 2030,” he said.
The IUCN media release gives the following assessment on eucalypts:
Eucalypts assessed worldwide
All known eucalypt species worldwide have been assessed in this Red List update, revealing that almost 25% are threatened with extinction. Of the 826 eucalypts – comprising the Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora species groups – 812 occur only in Australia. As keystone species, they define the landscape of the entire Australian continent, and are culturally significant to its First Nations People. Eucalypts including the Vulnerable Eucalyptus moluccana are the sole food source for the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which has declined significantly due to loss of eucalypt habitat.
Elsewhere in the world eucalypts can be highly invasive, but in their native range in Australia they face threats from human use of land, especially agriculture and urbanisation. This has resulted in population declines of at least 30% for 134 eucalypts, such as the Endangered Rose Mallee (Eucalyptus rhodantha), which has declined by more than 50%. Mining also threatens some restricted range species, such as the Critically Endangered Eucalyptus purpurata.
Critical habitat for conservation now remains in the areas between rivers and land, on roadside patches and in paddocks where lone trees often remain.
Dr Blanch said protecting remaining eucalypt forests, allowing cleared areas to regenerate, and planting eucalypts in selected areas would help protect eucalypt species and the animals who depend on them such as koalas.
To help WWF protect and restore forests and provide homes for koalas visit: https://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/2-billion-trees/2-billiontrees