Friday, April 4, 2008

Lifeline urged for threatened species

VICTORIA'S devastated ecosystems would be patched up and reconnected under a plan to give threatened species a better chance of surviving the worst predictions of climate change.
With the Brumby Government preparing to launch its blueprint for managing the state's ecology for the next 20 to 50 years, an alliance of eight environment groups is urging a tenfold rise in funding to avert a biodiversity crisis.

Victoria is the most cleared state in the country, with only about 30% of pre-development bushland areas left. According to the CSIRO, about a third of animal species and nearly half of plant species are extinct or under threat.

The Victoria Naturally alliance said the state had pockets of bushland where species were isolated, leaving them prone to pest invasion and with little chance to migrate should rising temperatures alter their habitat. Scientists predict temperature rises of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees this century.

Re-linking tracts of bushland has already begun in the state's west, where Greening Australia is leading a bid to connect 500 kilometres from Murray-Sunset National Park in the north to Portland in the south.

Victoria Naturally project leader Carrie Deutsch called on the Government to set targets to cut the number of threatened species by protecting existing native bushland and planting networks of wildlife corridors.
She urged a funding boost to buy and protect bushland.

"Victorian communities have proved ourselves as leaders in land care for 40 years but now we're in terrible decline — we need leadership with a capital L," she said.
Threatened species include the orange-bellied parrot in coastal forests, Leadbeater's possum in mountain country and the brolga in red gum wetlands.

Deakin University ecologist Associate Professor Andrew Bennett said the biodiversity paper was the Government's opportunity to be visionary, re-connecting habitats but also boosting long-term monitoring of ecosystems, possibly through a new government agency.
The 500-kilometre western Victoria plan, the largest environment restoration project ever attempted in Victoria, recently won $500,000 backing from Supply Energy to buy its first property to re-vegetate.

Environment Minister Gavin Jennings yesterday said the Government had already committed $14 million towards improving ecosystems on private land through the EcoTender program.

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