Australia’s current reserve system represents a significant conservation achievement, consisting of more than 10,000 reserves covering over 16% of the country. However, it needs to be expanded further to ensure the survival of many native species. Currently, only 30% of threatened species have an adequate amount of their habitat protected in reserves. However, scientific estimates indicate that, by building on the current reserve system, we could provide adequate habitat protection for all threatened species by placing as little as 18% of the continent in strategically chosen reserves.

The reserve system also needs further development to ensure that it protects Australia’s diverse landscapes. The goal of the National Reserve System is to develop and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative national system of protected areas that contains samples of the full range of regional ecosystems in Australia. These areas need to be sufficiently large and well-designed to ensure that ecological communities, populations and ecological processes are maintained in the long term, and are resilient to the threats they face. In order to meet this goal, more work is required to fill gaps in the representation of significant ecosystems.

Australia is divided into 88 bioregions, which are large areas that are characterised by particular natural features, geology and environmental processes, and distinctive ecosystems and species. These are further divided into subregions.  Based on 2012 figures from the Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database (CAPAD), all 88 Australian bioregions have some representation within the reserve system, but 34 of these currently have less than 10% of their area protected. At a finer scale, more than half of Australia’s 419 subregions have less than 10% of their area protected, with 37 of these having no protection at all.

Maps showing the level of protection of bioregions across Australia, and further data about Australia’s protected areas, are available from the Federal Government’s National Reserve System website.

NPAC believes that Australians need a national park acquisitions program that can:

  • Deliver core habitat protection and connectivity to other protected areas
  • Leverage funds from State Governments, Conservancies and Indigenous conservation partners committed to enduring conservation management
  • Harness the commitment and passion of Traditional Owners for looking after their country and deliver cross-portfolio Indigenous outcomes

NPAC’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ campaign provides a vision of a national park legacy for all Australians, and includes a number of recommendations for reinvigorating and prioritising the national parks system.

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