Australia is a global top-ten deforester – and Queensland is leading the way

Chain___Burning_logs_small.jpgNoel D Preece, James Cook University and Penny van Oosterzee, James Cook University

When you think of devastating deforestation and extinction you usually think of the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo. But eastern Australia ranks alongside these in the top 10 of the world’s major deforestation fronts – the only one in a developed nation. Most of the clearing is happening in Queensland, and it is accelerating.

Only last year a group of leading ecologists voiced their alarm at new data which showed the clearing of 296,000 hectares of forest in 2013-14. This was three times higher than in 2008-09, kicking Australia up the list as one of the world’s forest-clearing pariahs. At the 2016 Society for Conservation Biology Conference, a Scientists’ Declaration was signed by hundreds of scientists, expressing concern at these clearing rates.


Read more: Queensland land clearing is undermining Australia’s environmental progress


But the latest snapshot, Queensland’s Department of Science report on land cover change published last month, showed a staggering 395,000ha of clearing for 2015-16: an increase of one third on 2014-15. As far as we can tell this rate of increased clearing is unmatched anywhere else on the globe.

showed a staggering 395,000 of clearing for 2015-16: which is an increase of one third on 2014-15, or 133% over the period

Strong vegetation management laws enacted in Queensland – the Vegetation Management Act 1999 – achieved dramatic reductions in forest and woodland loss. But the subsequent Liberal National state government, elected in 2012, overturned these protections.

The current government, elected in 2015, has tried and failed to reinstate the protections. In response, “panic clearing” caused clearing rates to shoot up, in anticipation that the state election will deliver a government that will reintroduce the much-needed protection of forests.

The Queensland Parliament is now in caretaker mode ahead of the November 25 election. The Queensland Labor Party has pledged to reinstate laws to prevent wholesale clearing, while the LNP opposition has vowed to retain current clearing rates.

Forest cleared by bulldozers towing massive chains. Noel Preece

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Let’s get this straight, habitat loss is the number-one threat to Australia's species

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Brendan Wintle, University of Melbourne and Sarah Bekessy, RMIT University

Earlier this month, Australia’s outgoing Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews told ABC radio that land clearing is not the biggest threat to Australia’s wildlife. His claim caused a stir among Australia’s biodiversity scientists and conservation professionals, who have plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The ecologist Jared Diamond has described an “evil quartet” of threatening processes that drive species to extinction: habitat destruction; overhunting (or overexploitation); the presence of introduced species; and chains of linked ecological changes, including co-extinctions.


Read more: Australia’s species need an independent champion


In modern times we can add two more to this list. The first is catastrophic disease outbreaks, such as the chytrid fungus that has been instrumental in the catastrophic decline or extinction of almost 200 frog species, or the facial tumour disease that still threatens to wipe out Tasmanian devils in the wild.

The second is human-induced climate change, which appears to have caused one extinction in Australian Territories and is predicted to result in many more.

So the evil quartet has now become an evil sextet. It sounds ugly because it is. But does habitat loss through land clearing still top the list? The answer, in short, is yes.

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Tree Clearing Rally - Planning Meeting

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If you lined up 1,200 bulldozers side by side and drove them from Brisbane to Cairns then that's equivalent to the area of trees cleared, or planned to be cleared, in Queensland since 2013.

In September Mackay Conservation Group will be holding a rally to show we care about wildlife and want new tree clearing laws in our state.

Over the past four years one million hectares of woodland and forest has been bulldozed or the landholder has notified an intention to clear. We must end this practice that is destroying forests, killing wildlife, damaging the atmosphere and increasing runoff into streams and rivers that flow to the Great Barrier Reef. We need to show politicians that people in our region care as much about tree clearing as other Queenslanders do.

To make this rally a success we'll need people to take on some of the the big and small tasks. The first one is planning the event. If you would like to help protect our wildlife, please come along to our first organising meeting at the Mackay Environment Centre, 156 Wood St Mackay on Tuesday 18 July at 6.30pm.

You can RSVP here: http://www.mackayconservationgroup.org.au/tree_clearing_meeting_18_july_2017

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Koalas heading for extinction in SE Qld

Tree clearing is destroying koala habitat so fast in South East Queensland that there may be no koalas left there in a couple of years. Here in Central Queensland trees are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Sign our petition to call on the state government to enact strict tree clearing laws in urban and rural Queensland.

 

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Uncontrolled Tree Clearing Must End

clearing_5.jpgMore than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been cleared since the Newman LNP Government let loose the bulldozers on Queensland. 

In response, organisations including Mackay Conservation Group, WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Queensland Conservation Council have launched an alliance to end land clearing in the state.

“Queensland is in the midst of an environmental crisis from land clearing,” said Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman.

“The Newman Government gutted land-clearing laws four years ago today but the explosion in land clearing had started beforehand when the LNP announced it would stop enforcing the laws.

“More than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been razed since the Newman LNP let loose the bulldozers on Queensland. Since 2013 nearly 300,000 hectares has been cleared in Queensland every year we have data; an area the size of the Gabba is bulldozed every three minutes.”

Sign our petition to call on the Queensland Government to end uncontrolled tree clearing

Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig said: “This is one million very good reasons to make our land clearing laws much better and more effective in protecting native wildlife.

“Today we are launching an alliance of organisations from across the state united in their efforts to stop this terrible destruction.

“Parliament needs to be given another opportunity to end Campbell Newman’s destructive legacy on land clearing. By strengthening tree clearing laws, we can protect wildlife and bushland and ensure a future for species such as the endangered koala.”

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