Southwest Australia, a biodiversity hotspot

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Australia/New-Zealand > Australia

Stirling Ranges, Southwest Australia Ecoregion, an area with particularly high plant diversity under threat by the dieback disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi) and climate change.
© WWF Australia / Richard McLellan

Summary

The Southwest Australia Ecoregion, located in the southwest corner of the country, is characterized by an exceptional concentration of biodiversity. More than 4,000 species of endemic plants and 100 endemic vertebrates have been recorded here, with many other plant species believed to be yet discovered.

Led by WWF, a consortium of agencies, NGOs, research centres and other groups, have joined forces to develop a collaborative approach to biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Australia Ecoregion. Among the aims of the initiative is the development of a long-term biodiversity vision for Southwest Australia that will guide cooperative conservation action in the ecoregion over the next half century.

Background

Southwest Australia Ecoregion Conservation Planning Project encompasses 10 distinct biogeographic regions - ranging from the Northern sandplain heaths to the Swan coastal plains and wetlands, from the tall forests in the Southwest to the woodlands and granites of the Wheatbelt, and the mallee and heaths of the South coast.

The Southwest Australia Ecoregion is characterised by ‘an exceptional concentration of endemic species undergoing an exceptional loss of habitat’.

More than 4,000 species of endemic plants and 100 endemic vertebrates have been recorded in the ecoregion, with many other plant species believed to be yet discovered. Many of these endemics are rare and endangered, giving Southwest Australia the highest concentration of rare and endangered species on the Australian continent.

Led by WWF Australia, a consortium of agencies, NGOs, research centres and other groups, have joined forces to initiate and develop an ecoregional approach to biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Australia Ecoregion (SAE). Among the aims of the initiative is the development of a tangible, long-term biodiversity vision for Southwest Australia, leading to the formulation of a Biodiversity Conservation Strategy that will guide cooperative conservation action in the ecoregion over the next half century.

Objectives

1. Reach a clearer understanding of the root causes of biodiversity loss and landscape change in the region, how they interact and the best ‘entry points’ for actions to address policy and market failure.

2. Develop and articulate desired future scenarios for the Southwest Australia ecoregion, together with a vision, goals and objectives that inspire all organizations that can influence the region.

3. Develop biodiversity conservation targets that reflect priorities for conservation at an ecoregion level.

4. Inform state and regional natural resource management plans, and all levels of government and non-governmental organization (NGO) strategic plans.

4. Coordinate strategies and initiatives for protected areas and effective conservation on all land tenures which influence business and implementation plans.

5. Generate a greater local, regional, national and international awareness of the conservation challenge in Southwest Australia and an increased ability to attract funds to the partnership, linked to the joint action plan.

Solution

The Southwest Australia Ecoregion Steering Committee, using collaborative processes, aims to achieve the following:

1. Act as the catalyst for the development of a biodiversity conservation strategy for the Southwest Australia Ecoregion; this includes the development of an implementation framework incorporating actions and priorities and investment for implementation.
2. Provide a framework for interaction, influencing and collaboration between partnering organisations.
3. Facilitate the engagement of networks and organisations outside the partner groups.
4. Ensure/work towards consistency and links with other policy processes and initiatives, including regional and local strategies and plans.
5. Raise the profile, maintain support and influence for the conservation of the SAE, within the state, nationally and internationally.

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