Environmental Issues in Australia

Whitepaper Posted by Kristy Sumich on 13/03/2019
environmental issues in australia

Australia is a country that is blessed with a rich and diverse natural environment, but like many other countries, it is facing a range of environmental issues that threaten its long-term health and sustainability. From climate change and water scarcity to deforestation and biodiversity loss, these issues pose significant challenges for the country and its people.

In this whitepaper, we will explore some of the major environmental issues facing Australia and discuss the steps that are being taken to address them. By understanding the problems and finding ways to address them, we can work towards a more sustainable and healthy future for Australia and the world.

General Overview

In many areas, Australia’s temperate zones and coastal ecosystems have been extensively altered, many wetlands have been degraded. Climate change, and introduced plants and animals (invasives), are the agents of the radical changes that are tearing through Australia’s environment. The result?

Dramatic declines in the distribution and abundance of many species, with natural resources such as water now going scarce.


When forests are cut, the salinity of the soil can greatly increase. As a result, saline water draining from such areas can affect downstream or downslope water quality. It is estimated that around 7% of the agricultural area of western Australia is suffering from this problem following deforestation.

Moreover, studies in Australia’s wet tropics show that soils have a limited capacity to recover from deforestation. This adds to deforestation’s price tag. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) estimates land degradation costs about $1 billion annually.

Farmland lies dry and life-less due to land clearing and extreme drought conditions. …

Agriculture Clearing and Overgrazing

Because of clearing activities for agricultural land, around 13% of Australia’s original vegetation has been removed since European settlement. Overgrazing is one of the main pressures on biodiversity in Australia. Grazing and various agricultural improvement strategies have modified vast areas of grasslands and open grassy woodlands.

In temperate ecosystems, less than 2% of the original grasslands remain. Moreover, overgrazing promotes desertification and erosion and is also seen as one cause of the spread of invasive plants.

Overfishing and Illegal Fishing

Overfishing has already decreased part of Australia’s fish stocks to dangerously low levels. Two major factors account for this problem; the fact that some areas have low biological productivity (and hence fish stocks do not regenerate quickly), along with intensive fishing efforts by commercial and recreational fisheries. In 2005, 17 of 82 species that were assessed in Australian waters were classified as overfished.

Species that remain subject to overfishing and/or are overfished in the Pacific and Indian Oceans beyond the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) include:

  • The southern bluefin tuna
  • Blue warehou
  • Silver trevally
  • Orange roughy
  • Bigeye tuna

Illegal fishing places further pressure on some species, with Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean and sharks (for fins) in northern Australian waters being the worst affected.

Introduction of Exotic Species

It is estimated that Australia gains around 20 new pests or diseases each year. Some well-known examples include cane toads, rabbits, willows and, more recently, black-striped mussels and red fire ants. Historically, feral cats, foxes and rabbits have been a cause of local extinctions and significant reductions in range for native species through a combination of habitat modification and predation.

They are a major ongoing problem. Weeds are an equally significant pressure on ecosystems, with more than 2,500 species of introduced plants now thriving in the wild in Australia. They have invaded every part of the landscape – bushland, rangelands, coasts, rainforests, deserts and farms.

Ballast water from shipping has been responsible for introducing more than 250 species, and possibly as many as 500 species, into Australian waters.


Intensive agriculture is affecting Australia’s coasts and oceans, particularly estuaries and environments near the shore. Modelling predictions estimate that each year almost 19,000 tonnes of phosphorus and 141,000 tonnes of nitrogen are discharged into rivers flowing to the coast.

Infrastructure Development

Of continuing concern for Australia is the continued population growth along the coastline. The formation of massive metropolitan centres with increasing population density on Australia’s coasts could displace much valuable biodiversity and ‘high-value’ agricultural land.

Environmental Issues in Australia 2022

Environmental issues have been a concern in Australia for many years, and the country has made some progress in addressing them. However, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed to protect the environment and ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the country. Some of the major environmental issues facing Australia in 2022 include:

  1. Climate Change
    Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe heatwaves, bushfires, and droughts. The country is also facing the threat of rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
  2. Water Scarcity
    Many parts of Australia are prone to drought, and the increasing demand for water for agriculture, industry, and domestic use is putting strain on the country’s water resources.
  3. Deforestation
    The clearing of forests and other vegetation for agriculture and development has had significant impacts on the environment, including the loss of habitat for many native species.
  4. Biodiversity Loss
    The destruction of habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other human activities are contributing to the loss of biodiversity in Australia. Many native species, such as the koala and the Tasmanian devil, are at risk of extinction.
  5. Pollution
    Industrial and agricultural activities, as well as urbanization, have contributed to air, water, and soil pollution in Australia.

To address these issues, the Australian government has implemented several initiatives, including the development of renewable energy sources, the establishment of national parks and other protected areas, and the introduction of regulations to reduce pollution and protect natural resources. However, more needs to be done to ensure that the country’s environment is protected and preserved for future generations.

Reviewed By

  • Kristy Sumich

    Kristy Sumich is the owner and director of Eco Resources, a prominent waste management and recycling service in Western Australia. With deep industry knowledge and hands-on operational experience, Kristy is dedicated to providing sustainable solutions in waste management.