The state of nature in Australia


We conducted a landmark survey of Australia’s natural systems – our rivers, energy, climate, food, forests, waste and pollution, land management, oceans and reefs. Here’s some of what we discovered.

Our freshwater systems
• More than 85% of rivers in Australia have been modified due to irrigation, dams other development pressures.
• Of the 68 zones of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s most significant agricultural region, only one zone is rated in good health. Thirty-eight zones are rated in poor health and twenty-one in very poor health.
• Ongoing impacts of development and disturbance and the projected impacts of climate change will result in further decline of freshwater resources.
• Almost one-third of the 851 nationally important wetlands in Australia do not have adequate water supply or flow to maintain their health.

Our changing climate
• Concentrations of greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere are higher than any time in the last 800,000 years, and emissions are projected to increase by 50% by 2050.
• We will likely see four degrees of warming by the end of this century.
• Two degrees of climate warming will likely mean the loss of most coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef, 80 per cent of freshwater wetlands from Kakadu National Park, and Queensland’s tropical forests.
• It is estimated that by 2050, increases in climate change-related bushfire damage in southeastern Australia will have cost an additional $1.5 billion per year, (over and above the costs if no climate change took place).

• More than 3,000 Australians die each year from air-pollution-related illness, nearly twice the national road toll.
• Each Australian family contributes enough rubbish each year to fill a three-bedroom house from floor to ceiling, and the total amount of waste generated in the future is projected to increase.
• The health costs of air pollution in Australia are estimated to be in the order of $11.1 billion to $24.3 billion annually.
• Since the 1970’s, application of agricultural chemicals in Australia has been steadily rising, contaminating water systems.

Habitat change
• We cleared an average of 1 million hectares of native vegetation per year between 2000 and 2010.
• At least 50% of all wetlands in Australia have been drained, filled or destroyed.
• 1259 plants, 396 animals and 67 ecological communities are listed as threatened by the Australian Government.
• Invasive species have significantly contributed to extinctions in most regions of Australia, including more than 40 native mammals, birds and frogs.
• Since 1985 more than half of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef has been lost.
• Remaining coral cover is predicted to be lost with two degrees warming through climate change.

The shape of things to come
• By 2100, Australian population is projected to be between 42 and 70 million people.
• Total consumption per person in Australia is one of the highest in the world, and is projected to increase by up to 27% by 2030, with far-reaching impacts on nature including biodiversity, land use, climate and water.
• By 2050, energy consumption in Australia is projected to increase by around 21%, with only 14% coming from renewable sources.