Something scary is happening down under. Within the next 15 years, an estimated 3 million hectares of untouched forest will be bulldozed. The reason? To make room for the booming livestock industry. In addition to displacing wildlife, this move will exacerbate climate change.
Australia may have large deserts, but it also boasts a rich biodiversity. The Guardian reports that nearly 8 percent of all Earth’s plant and animal species live on the continent. Furthermore, about 85 percent of the country’s plants, 84 percent of its mammals, and 45 percent of its birds are found nowhere else.
Most of the land clearing will occur in Queensland. Already, trees there are being bulldozed at an astonishing rate. Approximately 395,000 hectares of native vegetation was cleared there in 2015-2016 — 33 percent more than the previous year. Experts believe the rate will only increase in coming years.
Every year, Queensland clears more land than the rest of Australia put together. In fact, the rate at which it is eradicating vegetation is comparable with the deforestation that occurs in the Brazilian Amazon. Queensland clears about 0.45 percent of its remaining wooded areas, whereas Brazil bulldozes 0.25 percent of its part of the Amazon each year.
Blame is being placed on the government, which has failed to introduce restrictions or apply existing restrictions. The recently re-elected Queensland Labor government has promised to change the laws, but in the meantime, other states have already begun to follow in Queensland’s footsteps. For instance, some of Australia’s oldest trees are being cut down for timber by a state-owned company in Victoria. And, Tasmania just signed up to allow more logging in its national parks, at least until 2037. Reportedly, both NSW and Victoria are considering the same.
Eastern Australia is now considered a global deforestation hotspot — the only one in the developed world. As a result, Australia is likely to lose 3 million hectares (or over 7.4 million acres) of trees by 2030, says WWF’s Martin Taylor. This will put everything Australians love at risk.
“If you care about the Great Barrier Reef, then that’s what you care about,” said Taylor. He warned that the amount of land clearing, combined with climate change, will increase the amount of sediment that flows into rivers. This will eventually impact the coral by starving them of light and decreasing their resilience to other harms.
According to WWF, 45 million animals are killed each year in Queensland from the bulldozing of their habitat. “People have very strong feelings about cruelty and mistreatment of animals,” Taylor said. “So what must they think of that then? That we’re bulldozing 45 million animals to death every year?”
“If you care about koalas, and if you care about Australian wildlife – if you want your kids to see them – then that’s what you care about,” he added.
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