Report

Conservation of Australia's Outback Wilderness

With the world-wide decimation and degradation of nature, Australia stands out in having huge areas where native vegetation still stands and rivers still run freely. Australia harbours a substantial proportion of the 17% of the global land surface, excluding Antarctica, still relatively free of human influence (CIESIN 2002). In fact, in the three global biomes considered in this paper—(i) tropical/subtropical grasslands, shrublands and savannas, (ii) deserts and xeric shrublands, and (iii) Mediterranean forests, woodlands & scrub— Australia has the largest remaining wild areas of any country.

These large natural areas support some of the richest concentrations of flora and fauna found anywhere on Earth. Australia ranks first among all nations in the number of endemic mammal and reptile species, and among the top five in numbers of endemic plants, birds and amphibians.

However, these areas face threats. Already, Australia has one of the worst records of extinctions, particularly of mammals and vascular plants, and many species are threatened, including about 20% of mammals. The extinction process is ongoing, including in areas with high wilderness qualities.

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Andrea Risotto

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Related Experts

Barry Traill

Director, Outback Australia

Barry Traill joined Pew in 2007 as director of Outback Australia, a joint program of Pew and the Nature Conservancy. He works with partner organizations to obtain protection for large wilderness areas in Australia on land and sea.Before joining Pew, Traill worked for 25 years as a conservation advocate and scientist for Australian state and national organizations. He dealt with private land conservation issues with Trust for Nature, Victoria and on public land conservation issues with the Victoria National Parks Association, Environment Victoria and the Wilderness Society. He was instrumental in establishing nationally coordinated work on the protection of Australian woodlands, including legislation that sharply reduced deforestation rates in Australia. He was a founder of the Northern Australia Environment Alliance and the Invasive Species Council.Traill holds a bachelor's degree and a Ph.D. in terrestrial ecology from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. View Profile