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1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Biodiversity

BIODIVERSITY AND PROGRESS

Biodiversity (or biological diversity) is the variety of all life forms on earth - the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain, and the ecosystems they form.

Biodiversity is essential to the wellbeing of Australia and Australians. Native plants, animals and other organisms contribute to a healthy environment through the maintenance of clean air and water, and healthy soils. They also provide significant economic benefits, for example through tourism, agriculture and a range of cultural and recreational services.

Australia's biodiversity is unique and globally significant, with Australia being home to many endemic plants and animals, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. Australia is recognised as one of only 17 'mega-diverse' countries, with ecosystems of exceptional variety and uniqueness. This group of mega-diverse countries covers less then 10% of the global surface, but supports more than 70% of the earth's biological diversity.

No single indicator can encapsulate all Australian biodiversity, that is, the abundance and diversity of all micro-organisms, plants and animals, the genes they contain and the ecosystems they form. Instead we focus on the number of threatened fauna species as this provides an indication of the threat to biodiversity, and how it has been changing over time.

Ongoing research means that our knowledge of, and ability to assess species populations has improved. This means that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) listing of threatened species is becoming more comprehensive as time goes on. However, it can also mean that increases in the number of species listed as threatened are due to improved information and field investigations, rather than actual changes in overall biodiversity. Nevertheless, species listings are among the best information available to measure progress or regress in our biodiversity.

Threatened fauna species is presented as the headline indicator, as most of the fauna (eg. mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians) have been relatively well studied and hence there is better data. However, two closely related measures are included as supplementary progress indicators: threatened flora species and threatened ecological communities. A final indicator is also presented to show the areas of Australia that are protected.

For a full list of definitions, please see the Biodiversity glossary.

RELATED PAGES

  • Biodiversity glossary
  • Biodiversity references
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