Biodiversity continued to decline.
Biodiversity continued to decline. Another 34 species were added to the Threatened Species List, bringing the total number to 1943. This represents a 2.3% increase from the previous year and a 39% increase since 2000. The newly listed species comprised 18 plant, eight bird, four frog, two fish, a mammal and a snail species. One-quarter of the newly listed species were birds endemic to Kangaroo Island in South Australia, which suffered severe fire disturbance in 2019/2020.
Ten species (0.5% of all threatened species) were up-listed to a higher risk category for extinction: six plant, two frog and two mammal species, mostly due to the loss of habitat in bushfires in previous years.
Only two species (0.1%) were down-listed to an improved conservation status: the Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) and the Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus) are now listed as Vulnerable. No species were removed from the list.
Number of species listed as threatened or extinct (DAWE)
Twelve species were declared extinct, an increase of 13% on the previous year and a 21% increase since 2000. Ten of the 12 were historical mammal extinctions, presumed to have occurred between 1850-1960. Two extinctions were recent: the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi) last seen in 2009 and the Christmas Island Forest Skink (Emoia nativitatis) last seen in 2010. The Pipistrelle had an evidently unsuccessful recovery plan in place since 2004.
Other species and groups can be used as barometers of biodiversity and ecological health. Waterbirds continued to decline in numbers in Eastern Australia, despite above-average rainfall and runoff across most of the area. Breeding increased compared to 2020 but remained lower than the long-term average.
The Threatened Species Strategy was reviewed in 2021. During 2015-2020, five out of 13 strategies were achieved. Notably, 67% of threatened flora are now stored in seed banks. In 2015-2020, priority species were bird, mammal and plant taxa, expanded in 2021 to include reptiles, frogs, invertebrates and fish. The only threat targeted in 2015-2020 were feral cats, since expanded to include foxes, gamba grass, and myrtle rust.
Additionally, 16 new species were discovered in 2021. They included a carnivorous tobacco plant (Nicotiana insecticida), the Star Octopus (Octopus djinda), the first millipede that truly has more than 1000 legs (Eumillipes Persephone), a ‘marsupial’ tadpole-carrying frog (Assa wollumbin), an existing tree frog species (Litoria dentata) that was split into three separate species, seven new spider species, a rainforest walnut (Endiandra wongawallanesis) and a desert fig (Ficus desertorum).
Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus) improved its threatened status in 2021. Photo by Wes Read. The recently discovered Peacock spider (Maratus nemo). Photo by Joseph Schubert.