From the desk of Michael, Program Manager Healthy Environments.
On September 7th 2023, a significant milestone in Australian conservation was achieved as peatlands were officially listed as a threatened ecological community (TEC) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This designation represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing effort to safeguard these vital ecosystems, which play an irreplaceable role in our environment and global climate.
Peatlands, often overlooked and undervalued, are wetland ecosystems characterised by the accumulation of organic matter, known as peat, over thousands of years. These unique landscapes serve as sponges, absorbing and storing vast amounts of carbon, purifying water, and providing habitat for countless species. Empodisma peatlands found across the South Coast region feature diverse plant life, providing habitat for animals like quokkas, quendas, and native bush rats. Carnivorous plants, such as sundews and Albany pitcher plants, thrive in the low-nutrient soil, capturing and consuming invertebrates. The peatlands are also home to endangered species like the sunset frog and burrowing crayfish.
Despite their ecological significance, peatlands have been under severe threat in recent years. Agricultural expansion, drainage, mining, bushfire and climate change have all taken a toll on these fragile ecosystems. When peatlands are disturbed or drained, they release stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating climate change. Peatlands are often referred to as “carbon sinks” because of their capacity to store vast amounts of carbon.
The listing of peatlands as a threatened ecological community across the south coast comes as new conservation advice is created to better protect 20 threatened species and 15 ecological communities across Australia. This includes updated analysis of threats and recommended recovery actions for 2 birds, 2 frogs, 1 reptile, 5 mammals, 10 plants and 15 ecological communities. You can read more about greater protections for our threatened plants and animals from the Minister for the Environment and Water.
The decision to list peatlands as a threatened ecological community under the EPBC Act is a powerful recognition of the importance of these ecosystems. This legal designation grants them greater protection and acknowledges their role in the national and global effort to combat climate change. It also signifies a commitment to preserving the unique flora and fauna that depend on peatlands for survival. As we move forward, it is imperative that we continue to work together to ensure that peatlands remain an integral part of our natural heritage and a vital tool in addressing the environmental challenges of our time.