King Island Natural Resource Management

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Biodiversiy - Definition & Benefits

The Definition

The dictionary defines biodiversity as ‘1. The number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region. 2. The variability among living organisms on the earth, including the variability within and between species and within and between ecosystems.’

Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.
Biodiversity comprises all the millions of different species that live on our planet, as well as the genetic differences within species. It also refers to the multitude of different ecosystems in which species form unique communities, interacting with one another and the air, water and soil.
The biodiversity we see today is a result of 3.5 billion years of evolution. Unfortunately, due to humanity’s over-exploitation of natural resources, our unsustainable development and the resulting disturbances to the environment, we are undergoing the sixth extinction crisis on this planet and degrading natural ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. It is estimated that the current species extinction rate is between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than it would naturally be.

Biodiversity conservation is about saving life on Earth in all its forms and keeping natural ecosystems functioning and healthy. Conservation biology as a scientific discipline has grown enormously over the past few decades and has increased our awareness and understanding of the great extent to which humans depend on natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

Conserving biodiversity means ensuring that natural landscapes, with their array of ecosystems, are maintained, and that species, populations, genes, and the complex interactions between them, persist into the future.
From http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/what_is_biodiversity/

Native Vegetation

King Island’s native vegetation is important for the protection of many plant and animal species.
The native vegetation of King Island provides homes to:

  • 350 species of plants including 40 species that are considered rare or threatened,
  • ten species of mammal, nine reptiles, six amphibians, several fish ,and,
  • well over 100 bird species.

Of course it also improves water quality, provides shelter to stock and pasture, and is an important part of the scenic character of King Island – benefiting residents, tourists and property values!
Only about one third of King Island is still covered in native vegetation.
Three quarters of the remaining native vegetation on King Island is on private property.
Private land owners on King Island have a special role in undertaking the care and protection of native vegetation.

Benefits of conserving biodiversity

  • health of water, soil and air
  • stock shelter
  • prevention of salinity and soil acidification
  • products such as timber, honey and medicine
  • scenic amenity
  • tourism
  • a link to the past – preservation of the natural world
  • support for living things including humans
  • pest control
  • prevention of weed invasion
  • habitat for native species
  • filtering of pollution.
  • Resilience of the ecosystem in the face of climate change and other pressures
  • Resilience against the marketplace
  • Maintenance of natural processes
  • Agriculture is totally dependent on ecosystem processes and functions provided by biodiversity
    soil formation, nutrient cycling, pollination of cropsmaintaining water cycles
  • protection from soil water loss and erosion
  • Bacteria and fungi in a healthy understorey cause the constant breaking down and recycling of nutrients
  • Increased agricultural production
  • Land value