Biodiversity supports life as we know it, but across the world it is in decline. We speak to Tim Jarvis AM about why it’s critical we protect it.
Tim Jarvis AM is a South Australian environmental scientist, adventurer, author, public speaker, and film maker (just to name a few of his credits).
You may have heard about his daring adventures, which include undertaking the fastest unsupported journey to the Geographic South Pole and, at the time, the longest unsupported journey across the Antarctic. He also made the first-known unsupported crossing of the Great Victoria Desert and recreated Sir Ernest Shackleton’s incredible Antarctic survival journey of 1916.
Tim is passionate about South Australia’s environment and its future which is reflected in the wide range of initiatives he supports and works on, including supporting conservation charities, his recent 4 years of patronage at Nature Play SA and 5 years’ service on the Zoos SA board who are leading work in endangered species conservation. He was also recently named South Australia’s 2024 Australian of the Year.
Tim is committed to finding pragmatic solutions to major environmental issues related to climate change and biodiversity loss. We were lucky to sit down with him and talk about biodiversity, including how he is partnering with the South Australian Government to champion the all-new Biodiversity Act.
Q: Can you explain why biodiversity loss is such an important issue?
But biodiversity loss isn’t something that is necessarily well understood and hasn’t historically received the same attention as things like climate change.
To paint a bit of a stark picture, Australia has one of the highest extinction rates of native species in the world. In South Australia, 1,100 of our native plants and animals are currently threatened with extinction, and we know that number is an underestimate.
That’s a huge issue.
It might be hard to see, but the extinction of one species has a flow on effect that impacts other species and ecosystems. Consider the microbes that may have lived inside it, the plants that relied on it for pollination and seed dispersal, and the other species that ate it, as well as the plants and/or animals that it may have consumed.
As humans, we rely on biodiversity to sustain our lives. It supplies us with the oxygen we breathe, acts as a carbon dioxide sink, filters the water we rely on, aids in the pollination of the crops we depend on for food, and fosters the growth of the soil they thrive in.
It also underpins our economy; the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that $44 trillion (almost half) of global GDP relies on nature. Our own wine, tourism and agriculture industries also rely on nature for their continued success.
In short - we can’t live without biodiversity. I think that even if an individual doesn’t necessarily value the importance of one plant or animal species over another, we all need to acknowledge that our survival depends on protecting and restoring biodiversity.
Q: What’s causing the problem?
Unfortunately, we are.
Human-led activities like land use change, pollution, the introduction of invasive species and habitat destruction are the key drivers of biodiversity loss.
Climate change also exacerbates the impacts of biodiversity loss by causing increased periods of drought or storms, bushfires, and ocean acidification. This can all have negative impacts on species and their habitats. It’s important to note that without habitats and the plants and animals within them – nature’s ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere is compromised.
This issue isn’t just limited to Australia; research estimates that - across the globe - at least 1 million species (that’s 1 in 8 species) are threatened with extinction.
We need to stop thinking about ourselves as being entirely separate to nature and better value and understand the important role it plays in sustaining our lives.
Q: What is the new Biodiversity Act and how are you involved?
The South Australian Government is committed to introducing a new Biodiversity Act, with an aim to protect and restore biodiversity for the long-term.
South Australia doesn’t have a dedicated Act to protect biodiversity (instead it is addressed across multiple other pieces of legislation). This has led identified gaps in protection.
The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) has been tasked with developing this legislation, and they now want to hear from you about priorities and opportunities for the Act.
I’m helping to promote this message as I think it’s an important discussion to get involved in. This is an opportunity to do things differently and, hopefully, better.
Q: Who should participate in the consultation? Do we have to be biodiversity experts?
Anyone can participate! The consultation aims to get an understanding of the community’s views on biodiversity conservation and what opportunities the new Act should explore.
Biodiversity touches all our lives, so it makes sense that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to this important new piece of legislation.
Q: Sounds great, how do we provide feedback?
It’s easy – visit YourSAy and complete the survey.
The survey should take around 10 – 30 minutes depending on how much detail you would like to provide. A discussion paper has also been prepared to provide background and context to the survey.
Q: To finish, we understand you have your own biodiversity recovery project. Can you tell us about that?
Absolutely. The Forktree Project is something very close to my heart. It’s a re-vegetation project on a 133-acre former pastoral property in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.
We’re working to re-establish tens of thousands of native trees and shrubs on the property, which will bring back native animals, insects and birds and sequester tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon.
This kind of work has multiple impacts and demonstrates how smaller land holdings like Forktree can make a meaningful contribution to combatting climate change and arresting biodiversity loss. Trees and native habitat conservation and restoration is one of the best way to arrest biodiversity loss and draw down excess CO2.
There you have it! If you’d like to keep up to date with the development of South Australia’s Biodiversity Act, you can subscribe here. Don’t forget to complete the survey by 14 February 2024 to help shape the development of the Act. There will also be additional opportunities to have your say on the draft Bill in 2024.
If you want to hear more from Tim, you can follow him on LinkedIn or check out our video Q&A below.