Biodiversity is the broad term used to describe the variety of natural organisms and includes the different species of plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and the ecosystems of which they are a part. The South Australian Murray-Darling Basin is a unique region and is home to a diverse range of native species, with over 2,000 plants and more than 450 animals. However, many of these species are threatened and the number is growing. It is important that we protect these native plants and animals by managing their habitats and threats.
Why biodiversity is important
Biodiversity is fundamental to our continuing existence. Important for aesthetic and cultural reasons, it also provides multiple human benefits, including:
- production of foods, pharmaceuticals, energy and durable materials
- recycling of nutrients and maintenance of health
- cycling of water, making it suitable for various uses and users
- generation of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
- stabilisation of coastal landscapes and seascapes by controlling rates of erosion
- amelioration of potential impacts of dryland salinity
- provision of shelter for stock and crops on primary production land
- regulation of climate
- maintenance and regulation of habitat
- support of cultural heritage, tourism, lifestyle and all human endeavours.
Threats to biodiversity
Australia's biodiversity is under threat. In Australia, more than 1,700 species and ecological communities are known to be threatened with extinction because of a range of threats, including:
- habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation
- invasive species
- unsustainable use and management of natural resources
- changes to the aquatic environment and water flows
- changing fire regimes
- climate change.
There are significant challenges for conserving biodiversity in South Australia. Lost biodiversity can never be fully recovered, but through our conservation efforts we can help species to survive. There are already many excellent examples of what needs to be done to firstly halt, and then reverse, the rates of species and ecological community decline.
Approaches to managing biodiversity in the SA Murray-Darling Basin
It is important to protect and maintain the native plants and animals that remain in the region. This is done in a variety of ways:
To prevent further loss of native plants and animals, some habitats and landscapes need to be restored to health. Priority areas for restoration have been identified as:
- Northern Murray Mallee – shrubby mallee habitat in areas of deep sand
- Southern Murray Mallee – mallee and non-eucalypt woodland habitat on a range of soils
- Western Murray Mallee – creek, drainage lines and flood out systems
- Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges – grassy woodland ecosystems
- Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges – Fleurieu Peninsula swamps.
In these areas, landscape recovery groups have been established to coordinate and resource restoration efforts.
Some native plants and animals are facing possible extinction and need immediate help to recover. Currently, there are projects in the region focused on a number of threatened and endangered species and communities including:
- mallee bird species
- plants of the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges
- environmental stewardship for peppermint box grassy woodlands and irongrass grasslands
- animals of the River Murray corridor
- Fleurieu Peninsula swamps recovery.
How you can help