Hold Those Bilbies Tight, the CSIRO Warns Invasive Pests Could Destroy Our Flora and Fauna by 2050

Hold Those Bilbies Tight, the CSIRO Warns Invasive Pests Could Destroy Our Flora and Fauna by 2050
Image: Andrew Cooke

It’s not new that Australia has long been subject to invasive species, in particular cane toads, cats and certain kinds of weeds, but now the CSIRO has warned that if something isn’t done soon, Australia could lose some of its unique plants and animals by 2050.

The CSIRO’s new report Fighting plagues and predators Australia’s path to a pest and weed-free future was released earlier today and gives us a frightening look into the future of Australia’s flora and fauna. The report indicates the impact of introduced species has resulted in more habitat destruction than climate change in Australia.

“Plagues of pests are not a distant problem to worry about tomorrow. They are here now,” the report warns. Australia’s plants and animals are at cost if action isn’t taken, according to the CSIRO, with more than 1,250 Australian species threatened by invasive species — that’s eight in 10 Australian species.

Threatening those animals are 207 weed species, 57 invasive animals and three pathogens. Included in these numbers are the mouse plagues that cause chaos across the country, as are European rabbits and European carp.

It’s tragic to think the damage has already been done in droves. Since colonisation, 29 native mammals, five frogs, four birds, one lizard, two plants and one invertebrate have become extinct, with reasons tracing to introduced and invasive species. Two lizards and one fish almost made the list, although they’re alive in captivity.

The worst part is that if we don’t act, insect-borne diseases could become a greater threat to our health, our forests could degrade and our country could become devoid of native wildlife.

“Urgent, decisive, coordinated action is crucial to stopping the spread of invasive species and to protect our extraordinary, irreplaceable native animals and plants and Australia has a great track record in this space,” said Dr. Andy Sheppard, a CSIRO scientist and a co-author of the report.

“It is the only way to stop the spread of invasive species, protect native plants and animals and preserve many of our favourite Australian outdoor pastimes.”

So, what can be done about Australia’s pest problem? In many ways it can be seen like there’s too much to be done, but the CSIRO isn’t ready to back down.

“We need to safely harness emerging technologies, revitalise our biosecurity research and innovation system and continue to invest in long-term, strategic research and development,” Dr. Sheppard said.

The report stresses that action needs to be taken now. Here are a few ideas it puts forward for civilians to stem the impact of invasive species:

  • Travel safely and don’t bring restricted items into the country or other states and territories.
  • Take responsibility for your pets and make sure they’re not eating native wildlife. Keep them healthy and make sure they’re free from disease. If you’re a farm animal owner, regularly check your livestock for disease.
  • Grow native trees in your garden and be on the lookout for invasive weeds.
  • Report any pests you sight. You can do this with the FeralScan app.
  • If you keep bees, register your hive and comply with the rules of your state or territory. Keep your hive healthy.

Another key thing the report says could help is volunteering. Finding an organisation that removes invasive weeds and pests or donating to one could help animals in the future.

Let’s hope Australia’s animals live on far beyond 2050.