Australia's threatened species list grows despite improvements
The environmental conditions have jumped four points from 2020 in 2021.
According to Australia's Environment 2021 Report, the environmental condition increased four points from the previous year, getting a 6.9 in 2021 on a scale of ten.
The news comes as Australian authorities announced Friday that the Great Barrier Reef has been plagued by "widespread" bleaching once again, as higher-than-average water temperature conditions threaten the already ailing World Heritage site.
Conservationists warn against complacency, blaming the recovery of the Australian landscape on frequent rainfall and milder temperatures.
These conditions are expected to be short-lived, with the Bureau of Meteorology anticipating rainfall to return to normal when the La Nina reaches its height.
James Tremain from the Nature Conservation Council said "This wet spell is just a shot of Red Bull and doesn't address underlying issues facing the environment,"
The study shows a worrying pattern.
"It's clear the general trend is going in the wrong direction, and it's quite a steep trend," Tremain said.
Shoshana Rapley, an ANU researcher, says the picture provides insight into the degradation of many components of Australia's environment.
It discovered that the oceans stored 6.5 percent more heat in 2021 than the previous year, and that we had the sixth hottest year on record.
According to Rapley, one of the most serious issues raised was the continued and rapid reduction of animal and plant species, which is a key indicator of where things stand.
34 new species have been threatened in the previous five years, including eight bird, four frog, and two fish species.
There have been no animals removed from the list of endangered species.
"There's just this ever marching forward of the number of precious Australian species that are threatened with extinction and no real decline in the numbers that are being listed."
Koalas and the gang-gang cockatoo are also considered endangered now.
According to Tremain, "the government spends $50 million on improving koala habitat and $2 billion on diesel fuel subsidies."
Despite above-average rainfall and runoff over eastern Australia, waterbird populations have continued to drop.
Rapley cautioned that the relief from drought conditions may not truly help species.
"Even though we have this small amount of respite it's not enough to give animals a break and built back those numbers in meaningful terms," she said.
She also added that in order to recover from the challenging climate, conditions will need to be much more lengthy.
A silver lining
Except for South Australia, vegetation growth has been significantly above normal, with improved conditions in all major farming zones.
National river inflows were about 30% greater than in the previous two decades, although wetland flooding remained considerably below normal.
In south-east Australia, tree cover has recovered after bushfire losses.
But Rapley believes that would simply provide more fuel for fires in coming seasons as drier conditions return.
"We can use this window of opportunity for social change to really ask 'what is the future we want to build?'" Rapley said.