Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

NSW - biodiversity

The definition of "biodiversity" adopted by the NSW Biodiversity Strategy is:

    The variety of life forms, the different plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they contain, and the ecosystems they form. It is usually considered at three levels: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity.


Simply, biodiversity can be described as life's variety (NSW NPWS 1999a).

Australia's native biodiversity is significant at a global scale (NSW NPWS 1999a) and it is estimated that Australia supports more than one million species of plants and animals. As well as a high number of species, Australia, and even NSW alone, also supports a great number and diversity of natural environments from the mountains to the coast, to woodlands, grasslands, rainforests and deserts (NSW NPWS 1999a).

Knowledge of terrestrial biodiversity across NSW varies according to the research effort put into a particular area. To enable comparison across bioregions, the datasets used were generally consistent across the State and for this reason may not have been the most sophisticated available for each region. This has led to a focus on elements of biodiversity such as threatened fauna and flora, which is but one way of describing biodiversity, and other information needs to be considered to gain a better overall picture of the status of biodiversity and its management across a bioregion.

The rich biodiversity contained in a variety of NSW landscapes cannot be taken for grated, and more than 700 species of plants and animals are listed as threatened in NSW under Schedules 1 and 2 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995 (TSC Act) (NSW NPWS 1999b). The conservation of these species is crucial in maintaining biodiversity, yet the list of threatened species continues to grow. In NSW, more than 40 fauna and 40 flora species are presumed extinct; more that 40 fauna and 210 flora species are endangered; and more than 160 fauna and 190 flora species are vulnerable (NSW NPWS 1999b).

Of the species listed as endangered or vulnerable in the TSC Act, four reptiles, seven birds, six mammals and almost 300 plants are also listed in the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 as threatened nationally.

An endangered ecological community is an assemblage of native species that is likely to become extinct in NSW if threats continue (EPA 1997). At the time of writing, there were 28 ecological communities listed as endangered in NSW on the schedules of the TSC Act. The Sydney Basin Bioregion, for example, contains several of the State's endangered ecological communities. The majority of endangered ecological communities are listed because they are highly fragmented and hence their long-term viability is threatened (EPA 1997).

Page last updated: 18 April 2016