News

World first: all known species documented by Aussie researchers

G-Online

Research

koala

Australia is host to an abundance of unique plants and animals, more so than previously estimated, according to a new report.

Credit: clipart.com

- Advertisement -

The only report in the world to document the planet's known plant and animal species - all 1,899,587 of them - has been compiled by Australian researchers.

"This work by Australian scientists...is a fantastic contribution to the global fight to conserve biodiversity," said Environment Minister Peter Garrett at the release of the report in Townsville today.

"It also gives us new insight into how valuable Australia's plants and animals are, revealing we have even more unique mammals, reptiles and plants than we previously had thought," he said.

The report, which updates Australian species figures for the first time in two decades, reveals 87 per cent of our mammals and 93 per cent of our reptiles are found nowhere else in the world.

It also documents a significant number of newly discovered species, showing that in the past three years Australia has been found the home to 48 previously undiscovered reptiles, eight frogs, eight mammals, over 1,100 flowering plants and over 900 new spiders, mites and scorpions.

But there's still a long way to go, Garrett said. According to the report, there are an estimated 700,000 species of flora and fauna in Australia, of which only about a quarter we have discovered and named. (On a global scale, estimates put the total number of species anywhere from between five million to over 50 million.)

"We need this essential information to do a better job of managing our biodiversity against the threats of invasive species, habitat loss and climate change," Garrett said.

The world-first report has been praised by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

"The identification and naming of species is the very foundation of the natural sciences," he said in a statement released this week.

"Unless we can be certain of exactly what organism we are considering, we cannot protect it, still less understand it. Listing species is the beginning of that essential process. So this report will provide a crucial reference point for all those who are acting to protect our planet for future generations. I congratulate all those involved in producing it."

To see a copy of the report, Numbers of living species in Australian and the world, click HERE.

While author Arthur D. Chapman is keen to point out in the report that many of the figures are "very loose", particularly with organism groups that are hard to make estimates for - "those that are small, difficult to collect, obscure or of no direct public or economic interest" - he writes that despite this, "the figures supplied...are at least as good as those that have arisen from other sources."