Environment

Invasive Species In Australia: Serious Threats To Australian Biodiversity

Since the European colonisation, several invasive species have been introduced in Australia that has threatened the survival of native species in the country.

Australia is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. Australia has the highest reptile biodiversity in the world with 796 reptile species of which 708 species are endemic. The country has 208 native amphibian species, 793 birds’ species of which 32 species have been introduced, 312 mammal species with 25 introduced species, and 2009 non-fish vertebrates. The high biodiversity of Australia has faced several threats with some of the species listed as endangered and threatened due to the several human activities. Some of the main threats to flora and fauna of Australia include the agricultural activities, climate change, illegal poaching, habitat loss, and the introduction of invasive species into the country.

Overview Of Invasive Species In Australia

Invasive species are either species of plants or animals occurring, as a result of human activities, beyond the fair normal distribution threatening the environmental, agricultural, and other resources through the damages they cause. Invasive species in Australia have had a major impact on the environment and threatened the quality of country’s unique biodiversity and reduced the number of species and their diversity. Most of the invasive species were introduced into the country during the European colonization of Australia. The management of the existing invasive species and prevention of further introduction of the species in Australia are the main objective of the environmentalist and Australian government. The weeds in the country contribute to a yearly loss of $2.5 million in agricultural production and a further $1.5 million in weed control. Invasive species include diseases, parasites, feral animals, insects, pests, and weeds.

The Introduction Of Invasive Species

The unique biodiversity of Australia was as a result of the geological and climatic events. Australia broke away from other continents millions of years ago becoming isolated in the process. The country was isolated from evolutionary pressure making its species primitive and less competitive than the rest of the mainland. To strengthen the species of Australia, there was a great faunal interchange. The first invasive species in Australia were introduced in 1788 by the European settlers. The number of species introduced into the country increased significantly in the 19th century due to the increased settlement leading to the extinction of some of the native species.

Types Of Invasive Species

Invasive diseases and parasites attack many plants and animals including the crops. Plants and animals do not respond well to treatment when they come into contact with these diseases and parasites. Australia is home to 56 introduced animals’ species categorized into feral, invasive, and pests. Some of the introduced animal species include Cane toad which has since become extinct, red fox, European rabbit, camels, and water buffalo. These species were introduced as pests, for recreational activities, and for biological controls. However, most of these feral animals have caused economic and ecological damages to the country. Other invasive species include birds, insects, pests, and plants.

Control And Management Of Invasive Species

The management and control of invasive species are carried out by individual bodies, conservation agencies, and the government of Australia. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service is an agency responsible for controlling the further introduction of new invasive species. A cane toad control program has been initiated in Darwin and Western Australia to control the spread of cane toad. Cooperative Research Centers have been established in the country by the federal government to assist in the control of pests and weeds. However, more needs to be done to eradicate the already established invasive species such as the honeybee and European wasp.

Invasive Species In Australia: Serious Threats To Australian Biodiversity

RankInvasive SpeciesIntroducedReasonIntroduced fromDistributionThreat level
1Cane toad (Bufo marinus)1935Biological control (cane beetle)South America via HawaiiQueensland (extensive), northern New South Wales, Top End, KimberleyExtreme
2Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)1855Recreational huntingEuropemost of mainland Australia; small numbers in TasmaniaExtreme
3European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)1857Recreational huntingEuropeThroughout Australia (extensive)High
4Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)1840Beast of burdenIndiaCentral Australia (extensive)Medium to high
5Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)1829Domestic livestockIndonesiaTop EndMedium
6Feral goat (Capra hircus)1840Domestic livestock ??Throughout Australia (extensive)High
7Feral cat (Felis catus)1849PetsEuropeThroughout Australia, except in tropical rainforests (extensive)High to extreme
8Brumby (Equus ferus caballus)1788Farm and utility workEurope; some later imports from South Africa and IndonesiaThroughout Australia (extensive)Medium to high
9Feral donkey (Equus asinus)1866Pack and haulage animalsEuropeThroughout Australia (extensive)Medium to high
10Feral pig (Sus scrofa)1788Domestic livestockEuropeThroughout Australia, except in deserts (extensive)High

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