Key findings

Biodiversity is essential to human survival, wellbeing and economic prosperity

Our biodiversity is declining, and the number of threatened species is increasing

  • Our understanding of the state and trend of terrestrial and marine threatened species in Australia has increased significantly since 2016, including our understanding of knowledge gaps. However, biodiversity overall is monitored very poorly in Australia, and we cannot assess the state and trend of most species with any confidence.
  • Most indicators of the state and trend of plants and animals show decline, and the number of terrestrial and marine threatened species has risen. We can expect further extinctions of Australian species over the next 2 decades unless current management effort and investment are substantially increased. Conservation actions are linked to reduced rates of decline for threatened Australian plants, mammals and birds, but they have not been sufficient to reverse declines overall.
  • Less investment and attention have been given to understanding the state and trend of threatened ecological communities than to threatened species, and improvements in the recovery of these communities is difficult to assess. The number of threatened ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) continues to rise.

Climate change, habitat loss and degradation, and invasive species are the key threats to Australia’s biodiversity

  • Many of the pressures on biodiversity in Australia have increased in intensity in the past 5 years. Habitat loss and degradation and invasive species result in persistent and sometimes irreversible impacts on biodiversity across almost all areas of Australia. Many Australian ecosystems are experiencing cumulative and compounding pressures, leading to ecosystem collapse characterised by loss of key defining features and functions.
  • Climate change and extreme weather events are becoming increasingly important as direct drivers of changes in biodiversity. Australian ecosystems and associated species are expected to continue to change substantially in response. Following the 2019–20 bushfire season, many species and ecosystems require rapid recovery interventions, mitigation of ongoing threats, and reassessment of their status.

Protected areas, recovery efforts and better management of pressures can help to secure our most threatened species

  • The extent and representativeness of the protected area system has increased through the addition of Indigenous Protected Areas. However, many threatened species and ecosystems still do not meet minimum targets in protected areas.
  • Indigenous rights, knowledge and values are increasingly recognised as central features of conservation management, but much more work is needed to align key legislation and policies with the aspirations of Traditional Owners for managing their land and sea Country.
  • Australia’s key national legislation for protecting threatened species and communities, the EPBC Act, is not effective in delivering improved outcomes for biodiversity, or in arresting biodiversity declines, and does not facilitate effective management of pressures or restoration of the environment.
  • Recovery efforts have been successful in some cases, with threatened species persisting or increasing in abundance. Ex situ conservation and translocations are rescuing some species from extinction or providing insurance against extinction in the wild. Predator-free refuges and safe havens have been crucial in securing populations of some of our most threatened mammal species.