The Wet Tropics Management Authority’s State of Wet Tropics Report for 2015–2016—titled Ancient, Endemic, Rare and Threatened Vertebrates of the Wet Tropics—was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on 14 December 2016.
The report reinforces the exceptional scientific and conservation value of vertebrate fauna of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, while highlighting the disturbing decline of many of these species (including those which have evolutionary significance and are found nowhere else in the world).
Based on an analysis of data collected over more than two decades, the report indicates that the distribution range and population size of many species have already shrunk, despite being well-managed in protected areas. With populations of many species disappearing at lower elevations, it points out that climate change is already negatively impacting our vertebrate fauna, with impacts exacerbated by fragmented habitat, emerging diseases, changing fire regimes and invasive pests.
The report highlights the need to maintain and improve long-term monitoring on a regional scale if we are to fully understand the impacts of climate change, biodiversity status and trends, and the implications on the Area’s natural and cultural values.
The Wet Tropics Management Authority has recently re-established its Scientific Advisory Committee which, with the Authority’s partners, will help develop climate adaptation and mitigation strategies and management actions to protect and conserve the integrity of the World Heritage Area.
Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee Professor Iain Gordon said, “There is an urgent need to develop ways to help our threatened species survive and adapt to changing climatic conditions and other impacts on their habitat.
“The Scientific Advisory Committee will develop strategies for increasing monitoring of species most at risk and implementing targeted management actions.
“We want to give confidence to the community that the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is secure, vibrant and resilient, both now and into the future.” Professor Gordon added.
With last year’s State of Wet Tropics Report highlighting the $5.2billion annual economic benefit of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area to the region, this year’s report provides a sobering reality of how fragile our landscape and its most iconic species are to human-induced threats, including global climate change.
Wet Tropics Management Authority Board Chair Leslie Shirreffs said, “Working to find solutions for the impacts of climate change will be a key focus of management agencies in the coming years.
“In partnership with the departments of Environment and Heritage Protection and National Parks, Sport and Racing, the Authority has prepared a draft connectivity document which identifies and prioritises areas of land that, if rehabilitated, help connect wildlife habitats.
“Community groups are also contributing enormously to building landscape resilience—reconnecting habitat corridors, monitoring our threatened species and educating the public,” Ms Shirreffs added.
Download State of Wet Tropics Report 2015 - 2016 here
See current and previous Annual and State of Wet Tropics Reports here