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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13086

Dr WASHER (Moore) (10:36): I would also like to thank the secretariat, other members of the committee, particularly the chair—the member for Makin has done an excellent job in putting this report together—and all the people who contributed to the report. I am pleased to speak on a few aspects of the report titled Case Studies on Biodiversity Conservation: Volume 2.

Kakadu National Park is home to approximately 2,000 plant species, 271 bird species—over one third of Australia's bird species—77 mammal species—about one quarter of Australia's mammal species—132 reptiles species, 27 frog species and 246 fish species. Some of these are unique to this area and not found anywhere else in the world.

Existing threats to the biodiversity of the Yellow Water Wetlands region include feral and pest animals, including the Asian water buffalo and cane toads, which started to colonise the park in the 1990s. Grassy and floodplain weeds such as Salvinia and Para Grass are prolific and invasive weeds that tend to quickly dominate and create monocultures in the ecosystems they invade.

The predicted effects of climate change in Kakadu include sea level rise; temperature rises, variation in the amount and pattern of rainfall and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Biodiversity has a direct impact on local communities as many rely on local plant and animal species as food sources. The Yellow Water Wetlands provide food sources such as lilies, melaleuca trees and magpie geese.

Many local communities are dependent on the tourism industry for their livelihoods and, in turn, the industry relies on the unique biodiversity of the region in order to attract visitors. The loss of biodiversity due to climate change would therefore have significant repercussions for the local Indigenous communities in particular.

Tropical North Queensland is home to both the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef consists of many different habitat types including coral reefs, seagrass meadows, tidal wetlands, open waters and islands. Climate change has been identified as the greatest threat facing the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. Ocean acidification has been identified as a serious threat to the biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems. As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide increases, the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean also increases, causing the ocean to become more acidic. This affects the ability of coral reefs to grow, which could reduce the capacity for repair after induced disturbances, including damage from marine vessels and visitors. Coral bleaching can also inhibit coral reproduction as a result of sea temperature increases.

Research programs run at Reef HQ Aquarium requiring no collection of coral from the Great Barrier Reef are an important measure for research institutions in order to maintain as little human disruption to the structure of the reef as possible. There are collaborative research programs conducted at Reef HQ between local universities as well as a formal educational videoconferencing program for school students connecting to classrooms all over the world on the effects of climate change on reef ecosystems.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area covers some 8,944 square kilometres from just south of Cooktown to just north of Townsville. The wet tropics are the most biodiverse terrestrial region of Australia. The main vegetation type is wet tropical rainforests fringed by sclerophyll forests, woodlands, swamps and mangrove forests. There are also several endemic species including the lemuroid ringtail possum. The spread of invasive weeds such as myrtle rust and Koster's curse presents threats to biodiversity in the wetland tropics because of their potential to damage the native and agricultural lands and infest tropical areas in other states.

One of the research facilities at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory is the use of dendrometer bands which collect and establish baseline data by measuring stem incremental growth, litter trap and leaf area index. One of the purposes of collecting the data is to report on the risks and threats to lowland rainforest canopy trees under changing rainfall and temperature scenarios. The main threat to both the reef and wet tropical ecosystems is the impact of increasing temperatures. The most effective way of building resilience to climate change for any ecosystem is by managing existing threats.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Leigh ): Does the member for Makin wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?

Mr ZAPPIA: I move:

That the House take note of the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 39(d), the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.