Biodiversity is the variety of life: the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and the ecosystems of which they are a part.
Australia is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. It is home to more than one million species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. About 85 per cent of flowering plants, 84 per cent of mammals, more than 45 per cent of birds, and 89 per cent of inshore, freshwater fish are unique to Australia.
Yet our vibrant island continent, with its striking natural contrasts, is surprisingly fragile and needs our help to ensure its diversity is protected for generations to come.
Native bushland has cultural, aesthetic and recreational importance to many Australians, but some of our unique plants and animals are under threat and we need to protect them and their habitat.
One of the main threats facing our native bushland is broad scale clearing. It is estimated that since European settlement began more than 700,000 square kilometres of woodland and forest have been cleared or thinned.
Land clearing destroys plants, entire habitats and local ecosystems and removes the food and habitat on which other native species rely. Clearing also allows weeds and invasive animals to spread, increases greenhouse gas emissions and can lead to soil degradation, such as erosion and salinity, which in turn can harm water quality.
Other threats which can damage our native bushland include overgrazing, which can damage shrubs and grasses and places stress on remaining trees; diseases like the devastating Die back; excessive firewood collection; chemical run-off and rubbish dumping.
Since many native species need specific environmental conditions to survive, loss of habitat is the main cause for some species being lost from local areas. If this happens in many regions, it can end up causing extinction.