With National Tree Day coming up on Sunday July 30, it’s the perfect time to talk about the importance of habitat.
Habitat is the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism, providing food, water, shelter, and a place for breeding. When habitat is lost or degraded, it can have a devastating impact on the species that rely on it. In fact, habitat loss is one of the main reasons many of our native species are threatened or endangered – you needn’t look further than the koala, the platypus, and the black cockatoo for examples.
More than just impacting individual species, however, habitat loss causes an overall decline in biodiversity - everything from the smallest microorganism and fungi through to the largest species of animal and plant. It is impossible to overestimate how critical biodiversity is to life on Earth – from its role in ensuring availability of a wide variety of food sources, managing air and water quality, helping regulate the climate, providing medicines right through to the wide range of other virtually imperceptible roles like pest control and waste management.
In Australia, the extent of habitat loss we have experienced since European colonisation is horrifying. According to the Australian Museum, a massive number of ecosystems have been lost over the past 200 years, including nearly 50% of all forests, 75% of rainforests, nearly 90% of temperate woodlands, over 60% of coastal wetlands in southern and eastern Australia, and much more in other areas of Australia.
Unsurprisingly, much of this habitat loss is either directly or indirectly related to human activity. Deforestation, pollution and contribution to climate change are just some of ways humans are giving rise to habitat loss, meaning we have a critical role to play in helping reduce those impacts.
Participating in National Tree Day events and planting native plants and trees in your own yard or community is something we can do as individuals (or community groups) to help protect and restore habitat, but it is the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other things that will help:
Learn how harmful invasive species can be to native species and understand how to control or manage them.
Educate others about the importance of habitat protection.
Work to reduce pollution on a personal level (e.g. limit the amount you drive/ keep your car engine in good condition, avoid the use of household chemicals, etc)
Make changes to your own lifestyle that can help to conserve biodiversity. (e.g. reduce your consumption of meat, commit to recycling, ensuring safe planting, using only natural pest control, and consuming less water as a household.)
Vote with your dollar – make conscious choices when shopping to support businesses working towards reducing pollution, deforestation, or other means of habitat loss.
Make use of our national parks, all of which provide a safe haven for threatened species and help to protect their habitat. We have over 500 national parks in Australia -by visiting them, you support them as our governments will keep funding our parks they are used by the community.
Every little bit helps. By taking action you can help ensure Australian biodiversity thrives now and into the future.
Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.