Updated: May 24, 2011
Impacts of Land Clearing
Native Plants and Wildlife
Land clearing poses the most direct threat to wildlife in Australia – it destroys their habitat, shelter and food sources.
When a patch of bushland is cleared the few animals that survive have nowhere to go. Even if they make it to another suitable habitat, competition guarantees they rarely survive. The altered landscape is unsuitable for all but the hardiest species such as magpies, some cockatoos and the larger kangaroos. The rest simply die.
Currently, over 240 species of plants and animals are under threat of extinction from land clearing including over 56 birds, 22 mammals, 12 reptiles, 4 frogs, and 140 plants species. Woodlands and grasslands, unique ecosystems hosting thousands of native species are now reduced to a fraction of their original area, yet broadscale land clearing activity continues in these areas. Islands of bushland are all that's left in many areas. Surrounded by cleared land they are vulnerable to invasion by weeds and feral animals.
Land clearing is the number one cause of dryland salinity. When native vegetation is removed the rain moves down to the water table, causing it to rise and force the soil salt to the surface. This situation is almost impossible to reverse and ruins not only the native life but devastates the agricultural value of the land.
Land clearing directly leads to the degradation of fertile farmland causing millions of dollars of lost production and negatively affecting farmers and rural communities.
Research undertaken in NSW has found that the cost of damage caused by salinity is $1 million per year for every 5000 hectares visibly affected by salinity. It is estimated that over the coming century between $600 million and $1 billion per year will be lost for the entire Murray Darling Basin due to salinity.
When trees are burned or left to rot after being cleared, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. In the decade from 1995-2005, the amount of land clearing in Australia was so extensive that the greenhouse gases produced rivaled the amount produced by cars and trucks. Stopping further land clearing would be a step forward to reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Inc