Native Biodiversity

World class work

During the second half of the twentieth century, Traditional Owners largely moved away from remote parts of Arnhem Land, encouraged by missions, work opportunities and larger communities. Country was orphaned (the term used for land without its people) for a number of decades – enough time for fine-scale fire management to be replaced by raging yearly wildfires, and for feral animals and invasive plants to outcompete native species.

Australia has one of the highest rates of biodiversity loss in the world – over one in 10 land mammal species are now extinct, with one in five threatened, and 13 per cent of our natural vegetation lost. Our precious places are suffering from changes in land use, feral species invasion and the impacts of a changing climate.

 

 

One such place is Arnhem Land, one of Australia’s most biodiverse and culturally rich regions. Owned and managed by Traditional Owners with connection and knowledge that dates back tens of thousands of years, the vast landscape is characterised by elevated stone Country, floodplains, remnant rainforest patches, savanna woodlands, and spectacular sea Country. 

During the second half of the twentieth century, Traditional Owners largely moved away from remote parts of Arnhem Land, encouraged by missions, work opportunities and larger communities. Country was orphaned (the term used for land without its people) for a number of decades – enough time for fine-scale fire management to be replaced by raging yearly wildfires, and for feral animals and invasive plants to outcompete native species. The local ecosystem, and the plants and animals that make it up, evolved alongside Bininj (the Aboriginal people of Western Arnhem Land). The disruption in intensive Indigenous land management has led to plummeting numbers of small to medium–weight mammals, including culturally important species like djabbo/northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) and bakkadji/black-footed tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii). Refugia, including rainforest patches, have shrunk, and fresh-water places have been destroyed.

Indigenous rangers, living and working on Country, are best placed to curb the decline in native biodiversity loss and improve habitat for future generations. The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust supports rangers in West and Central Arnhem Land who tirelessly blend Indigenous knowledge and western science to control threats and help native species begin to thrive in their natural environment.