Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
– Albert Einstein
Biodiversity can include the diversity of genes within a species, the diversity of species within a landscape and the diversity of ecosystems across landscapes. The different plants and animals in an ecosystem have different roles and relationships that, together, contribute to the healthy functioning of the environment and to the provision of ecosystem services essential to humans.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is committed to biodiversity protection. A significant proportion of the ACT environment is protected – 55.22% of the Territory’s total 235 813 hectares (ha) is contained in areas permanently designated as either nature reserve or national park. The ACT also has legislative and policy frameworks to conserve, maintain and improve biodiversity within these protected areas.
However, outside of protected areas, although there has been progress in conservation of natural resources (land, soil and water), progress in conservation of biodiversity, including both habitats and species, remains a challenge. In addition, pressures leading to habitat loss and modification threaten the ACT’s biodiversity.
The main way to assess ACT biodiversity is to examine specific species and habitats.
There are currently 16 species listed as vulnerable and 18 listed as endangered under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014. A further seven species are listed by the Scientific Committee as rare and six as insufficiently known; these are species for which the Committee has a watching brief.
For vulnerable species, notable trends during the reporting period (2011–2015) include a decline in Brown Treecreeper, Glossy Black Cockatoo and Scarlet Robin recordings; and an increase in Superb Parrot and White-Winged Triller recordings. Surveys of Pink-Tailed Worm Lizard habitat have shown good populations in Mount Taylor Nature Reserve, Belconnen–Ginninderra Creek, Pialligo and the Molonglo River Corridor. Surveys of Striped Legless Lizard habitat in Crace, Mulangarri and Gungaderra Grassland nature reserves and adjoining open spaces also identified good populations. For aquatic species, Murray River Crayfish has low population numbers in the Murrumbidgee River and remains at risk, but Two-Spined Blackfish numbers are improving in the Cotter River Catchment.
For endangered species, notable trends during the recording period include a decline in Regent Honeyeater, Grassland Earless Dragon and Northern Corroboree Frog recordings; and an increase in Brindabella Midge Orchid, Canberra Spider Orchid and Tarengo Leek Orchid recordings. Surveys of Golden Sun Moth in the ACT show that there is a total of 1800 ha of moth habitat in the ACT: 47% within protected areas, 21% approved or proposed for clearance, and 23% on Commonwealth land with an uncertain future.
Specific efforts have been made to support several endangered species:
- Trout Cod have been stocked in the upper and mid-reaches of the Murrumbidgee River, after dying out in the region in the 1970s.
- The Brush-Tailed Rock-Wallaby was last recorded in the wild in the ACT in 1959. The captive breeding colony at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve successfully breeds animals for reintroduction in Victoria and New South Wales. The ACT Government is investigating possible reintroduction sites in the ACT; however, any reintroduction of this species to the ACT will need long-term fox control.
- Seeds and plant material of Ginninderra Peppercress, Murrumbidgee Bossiaea and Tuggeranong Lignum have been collected to support propagation and translocation efforts.
- Captive breeding program for Northern Corroboree Frog resulted in juveniles being released back to sphagnum moss bogs in Namadgi National Park in 2011 and 2012.
Note that Smoky Mouse and Silver Perch have not been detected in recent surveys and could possibly be extinct in the ACT.