List of threatened species grows as ecosystems show signs of collapse due to climate crisis and habitat loss

The health of Australia’s environment is poor and has deteriorated over the past five years due to pressures of climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and mining, according to a government report that warns the natural world holds the key to human wellbeing and survival.

The state of the environment report – a review completed by scientists last year but held back by the Morrison government until after the federal election – found abrupt changes in some Australian ecosystems over the past five years, with at least 19 now showing signs of collapse or near collapse.

Since 2016, 202 animal and plant species have been listed as threatened matters of national environmental significance, following 175 being added to the list between 2011 to 2016. This has happened while the rate of discovery and description of new species has slowed considerably over the past decade. There remain many more species that are unknown than those known.

While a government threatened species strategy had improved the trajectories of 21 priority species, many others did not show improvements. The list would increase substantially in coming years as the impact of the catastrophic 2019–20 bushfires – which killed or displaced between 1 billion and 3 billion animals – became clearer.

Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent, and has one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world. More than 100 Australian species have been listed as either extinct or extinct in the wild. The major causes of extinction were introduced species and habitat destruction and clearing.

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