Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework consultation draft

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Prepared by the National Vegetation Framework Review Task Group
Convened under the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
ISBN 978-0-9807427-0-1

In 2012 Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework was released to guide the management and protection of Australia’s unique and valuable native vegetation.

Executive summary

Australia’s native vegetation, that is all vegetation that is local to a particular site or landscape, is vital to us all. It provides essential environmental, social, economic, spiritual and cultural benefits.

Native vegetation sustains Australia’s biodiversity. It also sustains ecological processes critical to delivering the ecosystem services that provide the life support systems for our planet. These processes and services include:

  • forming the basis of food chains
  • purifying air and supplying oxygen
  • protecting water quality and yield
  • supporting forestry, agriculture and aquaculture
  • maintaining soil fertility and stability upon which many productive enterprises rely.

Native vegetation is vital for many traditional Indigenous uses, such as medicine and food, and contributes to spiritual and cultural wellbeing. It also plays an essential role in carbon storage, helping to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

Our vegetation is unique, having evolved in isolation from other continents for around 30 million years. It has adapted specifically to cope with variations in climate, impoverished soil, fire, and traditional Indigenous land management practices.

This consultation draft of Australia’s Native Vegetation Framework is a joint initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments. It builds on the existing 1999 National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Native Vegetation to guide policies, programs, legislation and activities related to native vegetation conservation throughout the country.

Since the establishment of the initial framework in 1999, all Australian governments and the broader community have invested significantly in developing and implementing policies and programs for the sustainable use and conservation of native vegetation. Despite these efforts, native vegetation in many parts of Australia has become degraded and fragmented. Its integrity is at risk from changing land use along with unsustainable clearing, changed water and fire regimes, overgrazing and invasive species (Beeton et al. 2006). Climate change is a further threat and will also exacerbate other threats.

Although Australia retains more than 87 per cent of the pre-European (1750) extent of native vegetation cover, its condition is variable, fragmented and often degraded (Beeton et al. 2006 p69). Some vegetation types are reported as having less than 10 per cent of their original cover (National Vegetation Information System), with some of those down to less than one per cent (Beeton at al. 2006 p69).

Since European settlement almost one-third of Australia’s native vegetation located in agricultural and urban zones has been cleared or greatly modified, and the components of many ecosystems have been severely disrupted (Beeton et al. 2006 p69).

Concerted action will be required to reverse the ongoing decline in Australia’s vegetation. This challenge is greatly increased in the face of climate change.

In many areas it is vital to rebuild the resilience of ecosystems through measures such as:

  • enhancing the protected areas system
  • redoubling efforts to minimise or remove existing stresses
  • improving connectivity
  • identifying and protecting habitat refugia for animals, including key areas of native vegetation.

In relatively undeveloped areas, mechanisms are needed to prevent over-clearing and to ensure that development is planned so that maximum native vegetation is retained.

Existing native vegetation, particularly in fragmented landscapes, should be retained and restored. The condition of both remnant and degraded vegetation in extensive land use zones such as pastoral rangelands should be improved as a matter of urgency.

The vision of this framework is that native vegetation across the Australian landscape is managed in an ecologically sustainable way in recognition of its enduring environmental, economic, social, cultural and spiritual values in a changing climate.

This framework sets out five goals to meet its vision:

  • Goal 1 Increase the national extent of native vegetation to build ecosystem resilience and improve the productive capacity of the landscape
  • Goal 2 Maintain and improve the condition of native vegetation
  • Goal 3 Maximise the native vegetation benefits of carbon markets
  • Goal 4 Build capacity to understand, value and effectively manage native vegetation by all relevant stakeholders
  • Goal 5 Progress the engagement and inclusion of Indigenous peoples in management of native vegetation

Outcomes and targets are identified for each of these goals as well as key actions to be undertaken by a range of governments, organisations and interest groups.

The actions are an indicative set, acknowledging that as our native vegetation conservation efforts progress we may develop new actions to help achieve our vision. Actions should be carried out according to jurisdictional circumstances and bioregional character.

Every Australian has a role to play. Governments at all levels, Indigenous peoples, and public, private and corporate land managers across the country, must all help to ensure that Australia’s native vegetation is protected and enhanced, in recognition of its inherent values and multiple community benefits for Australian society.