Human population growth a threat to other species

5 September 2021

Habitat loss is the greatest threat to other species and is exacerbated by human activities and population growth, according Sustainable Population Australia (SPA). Thus, slowing and ending population growth is critical if threatened species are not to be driven to extinction.

Australia commemorates National Threatened Species Day on 7 September to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction. It marks the anniversary of the death of the last Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), at Hobert Zoo in 1936.

SPA National President, Ms Jenny Goldie, says important ecological habitats continue to disappear as they are cleared for agriculture and urban expansion.

“In Australia, until Covid closed our borders, we saw huge growth in our major cities, with both Melbourne and Sydney growing by around 100,000 a year. Such growth puts increasing pressure on biodiversity as residential areas encroach on natural systems.

“The State of the Environment: Australia 2016 report noted that our big cities continue to expand into natural areas on the city fringes. For instance, Melbourne’s peri-urban zone is encroaching on the threatened Grassy Eucalypt Woodland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain.

“And in the Sydney Basin, urban development has reduced the Cumberland Plain Woodland to small fragments scattered across the western suburbs of Sydney, and it is now listed as critically endangered.

“City dwellers also travel and holiday all over the country, adding to human impact and requiring ever more infrastructure, often in already compromised natural spaces.”

Ms Goldie says the catastrophic bushfires of the 2019-20 Black Summer – made worse by human-induced climate change – are driving many more species towards extinction.

“The mega-fires burned through about 97,000 square kilometres of vegetation in southern and eastern Australia, an area bigger than Portugal. It included critical habitat for 832 species of native vertebrate fauna.

“The bushfires may have led to a 14 per cent increase in threatened species. We already have the worst record in the world for mammalian extinctions,” says Ms Goldie. “We simply cannot afford to lose any more.”

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