I consider myself to be fairly environmentally aware, having grown up in a household where my parents have tried to instill in me a sense of environmental responsibility from recycling, minimising waste, reducing water consumption and purchasing sustainable products. Having grown up in Singapore, where the land has been significantly changed by urban development, it was therefore interesting to hear that Australia has the highest rate of biodiversity loss in the world, particularly as Australia also has a strong reputation for environmental protection and conservation.
We explored the various management issues affecting ecosystem management and the need for holistic approaches toward combating these issues. It was clear from this, that addressing the issue of biodiversity loss is the responsibility of all members of our society and working together is the only way this will be successful. We discussed the AICHI targets and a variety of other environmental protection and conservation policies that have been implemented around the world and how successful and unsuccessful these have been. Having worked on various projects with work, I identified many similarities with ecosystem management and the need for different groups to work together to achieve the goals, rather than having groups operating in isolation. I thought of this as being a part of a jigsaw puzzle, as activities that occur in adjacent land or further upstream can have huge related impacts downstream.
Richard Kingsford from the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW Australia came to talk to us in the afternoon about the development of comprehensive, adequate and representative protected areas (CAR) and discussed the importance of size. It was surprising to hear that smaller parks are not as effective in protecting biodiversity as larger ones, and yet we have surprisingly few large parks in comparison to the smaller reserves. Given the importance of these protected areas, it was disappointing to see the difficulties in setting aside land for conservation purposes rather than for urban development. Richard brought up the point of parks needing to have monitoring systems in place to determine when thresholds of ecological concern are met and having adaptive management policies to effectively counteract any negative impacts. Given that we live in a world where we essentially report on all activities, it was surprising to hear that many parks do not undertake monitoring activities to measure ecological health. Peter Cochrane, an ex-Director of Parks Australia brought up the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the requirement for countries to have 17% of their land set aside in protected areas. The other issue he mentioned was that as the climate changes, areas that have been set aside for conservation may not be supportive of the biodiversity they were previously. As such the need to establish wildlife corridors to enable species to transition between these protected areas was critical. However when it was proposed that we make native gardens a mandatory requirement there were a few strong viewpoints on whether this should be allowed. As this was a class discussion, I suspect that real world discussions are significantly more complex.