Australia, lying in the southern hemisphere, is the world’s largest island continent that has been isolated from other continents for millions of years. As a result, 80% of its species of flora and fauna are endemic. Approximately 83% of Australia’s mammals, 85% of its flowering plants, 45% of its land birds, 90% of its reptiles and over 90% of its frogs are endemic. These high levels of endemism are not restricted to terrestrial Australia: about 85% of its inshore fish species in the southern temperate zone can only be found in Australian waters.
Australia’s biodiversity makes an important contribution to the nation’s economy and is regarded as an important part of the nation’s heritage, as it is essential to the identity and culture of Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Although conservation efforts have increased in the past years, Australian environmental assessments have found that biodiversity is in serious decline with downward trends of the conservation status of some species. A key challenge of conserving the country’s biodiversity is the fact that at least 75% of Australia’s native species remain undiscovered. Forty-five percent of Australia’s landmass has not been fully biologically surveyed, and the vast majority of the country’s exclusive economic zone is yet to be mapped and surveyed. In addition to this challenge, about 90% of native vegetation in the eastern temperate zone has been removed for human habitation, industry and transport. Almost half of the rainforests have been cleared, and land use and population pressures have had substantial impacts on the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems. Download full Country Snapshot (PDF)