Trust for Nature has an important role to play in biodiversity conservation in Victoria.
Our Statewide Conservation Plan guides our work, alongside Trust for Nature’s Strategic Plan, to identify and achieve conservation goals across Victoria. The Plan clearly defines our conservation priorities and priority areas. Taking a statewide perspective of the value of private land for healthy ecosystems, the Plan provides a baseline for achieving our conservation targets across the state.
Our conservation objectives
The six conservation objectives defined for the Conservation Plan are to:
- Improve the viability of ecosystems and species at a landscape scale
- Improve protection of the least protected ecosystems and threatened communities
- Improve protection of significant aquatic and coastal ecosystems
- Improve protection of threatened species
- Enhance and protect landscape connectivity, and
- Enhance and protect habitat quality.
You can find a more detailed breakdown and rationale for each objective in the full Statewide Conservation Plan.
Biodiversity and land tenure in Victoria
With 62% of the state privately owned, Victoria has the highest proportion of private land of any state and territory in Australia. It is also the most highly altered state or territory in terms of vegetation loss – 79% of the native vegetation remaining on private land is considered threatened, and nearly 90% of all under-represented Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs) in Victoria occur on private land.
Based on scientific data obtained from government agencies and other conservation bodies, the Statewide Conservation Plan assesses the occurrence and status of terrestrial ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems and threatened plants and wildlife on private land.
For the first time, the Statewide Conservation Plan gives Trust for Nature and other conservation bodies a systematic perspective of where Victoria needs to focus its private land conservation activities. The Statewide Conservation Plan identifies 12 focal landscapes across Victoria that will make the greatest contribution towards conservation on private land. It also identifies the species most at threatened and in need of protection.
Our contribution to national and international conservation targets
The National Reserve System represents Australia’s system of formally protected areas which help contribute to international protection commitments under the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity. These were refined most recently in 2011 in what are known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with target 11 stating that:
By 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.
Trust for Nature’s conservation covenants and its network of private conservation reserves contribute to these national and international targets as formally protected areas. They have an especially important role in Victoria’s rural landscapes where most land is privately owned and the only way to achieve the 17% protection target is through additional protection on private land – for example in the Victorian Volcanic Plains, Wimmera, Victorian Riverina and Strzelecki Ranges bioregions. Targeting these under-represented bioregions for additional long-term protection of habitat on private land is a key conservation priority for Trust for Nature.
Conservation and climate change
Climate change is already having an impact on biodiversity in Victoria, and this will increase in severity in future. Predicted effects of climate change in Victoria include more days over 35°C, less annual rainfall, fewer frosts, more days of extreme fire danger and more extreme floods and droughts. These changes are already being shown, or are predicted, to impact on biodiversity through reduced water flows in rivers and wetlands, reduced groundwater recharge, increases in weeds and pest animals, and increases in fire intensity and frequency.
A major study examining the implications of climate change for protected areas across the country (the National Reserve System) has described the magnitude of environmental change predicted under continuing climate change. The composition of plant species in vegetation communities may change by more than 50% by 2070. Major structural shifts in vegetation are also predicted to occur over the same time period, with a move from woodlands to open woodlands, mallee to chenopod shrublands and tall open forests to open forests. The study also highlighted how climate change will exacerbate the current impacts of habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, inappropriate fire regimes, extreme climatic events and invasive species on existing ecosystems, plants and animals by increasing the overall level of environmental stress, such as reduced moisture availability leading to reduced food resources and decreased populations.
At the ecosystem scale, climate change is already affecting, or is predicted to affect, most animal and plant communities by altering the availability of moisture, food resources and suitable habitat. In turn, these changes are considered to be the driving cause of declines in the abundance of some fauna groups due to: loss of suitable habitat and subsequent contractions in range or population size; increased mortality as a result of loss of food; reduced productivity because of food shortages; or increased competition for resources by some species expanding their range in response to changed climatic conditions.
In the context of climate change, conservationists are focusing on:
Continuing habitat protection and expansion of the National Reserve System
Protection of key refuges, being areas that are likely to retain habitat and climatic conditions suitable for a species whose range is predicted to contract in the context of climate change
Increased focus on pest plant and animal management, especially new and emerging species, and
Appropriate fire management and/or prevention.
The Plan identifies 148 species of plants and 88 species of wildlife as priorities for conservation on private land. Many of these are classified as nationally threatened, and are listed as endangered or vulnerable in Victoria. Nearly 60% of these priority species have been recorded to date from Trust for Nature covenants and reserves, demonstrating the importance of these private protected areas for maintaining these species.
A key outcome of the Statewide Conservation Plan has been the identification of 12 focal landscapes across Victoria. These landscapes have been assessed as being capable of making the greatest contribution towards nature conservation on private land and maintaining the viability of ecosystems and species.
Collectively, the twelve focal landscapes encompass:
- nearly two million hectares of private land with significant biodiversity values out of a total private land area in Victoria of 14 million hectares
- approximately 60%of the Trust’s protected areas (including both covenants with landowners and Trust properties) on private land
- representation of every under-represented IBRA bioregion and subregion in Victoria
- one-third of the remaining extent of under-represented ecosystems on private land
- inclusion of most of Victoria’s internationally significant Ramsar wetlands
- occurrences of more than 50% of the species identified in the Conservation Plan as being priorities for conservation on private land, and
- nearly 50% of all private-land habitat that has high landscape connectivity in terms of landscape context and good habitat quality.
Since 1972, Trust for Nature has permanently protected more than 98,000 hectares of private land for conservation in Victoria. We’ve achieved this through conservation covenants with landholders, acquiring land as our conservation reserves, and our Revolving Fund. To date, Trust for Nature has registered over 1,380 conservation covenants covering more than 60,000 hectares of private land across Victoria, protected forever.
Trust for Nature’s reserves, and private properties protected by a Trust for Nature covenant, are recognised as part of Australia’s protected areas system, known as the National Reserve System (NRS), and the global network of protected areas as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).