Australia is known for its pristine natural environment and unique plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Our geographic isolation has led to the evolution of many iconic Australian species and has also kept Australia’s environment safe from many exotic pests, weeds and diseases. However, increasing international trade, travel and climate change are making it much more challenging to keep pests out. If introduced, these pests, weeds and diseases could threaten our valued environmental and social resources.
For example, if the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) from South America were to become established in Australia, these biting ants could impact upon on our wildlife and effect our quality of life. Fireants are extremely aggressive and feed voraciously on ground dwelling animals. They threaten native plants by eating and damaging seeds and seedlings, as well as some of the insects and animals that pollinate native plants. Together these impacts could cause serious ecosystem level damage.
Whilst our biosecurity system for agriculture production pests is well developed, there is a need for a greater focus on environmental biosecurity. Australia is taking the lead in this space with the introduction of Ian Thompson as Australia’s first Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) in October 2018.
The role of the Environmental Biosecurity Office is to:
- connect people – strengthen government, stakeholder and community awareness, networks and engagement about environmental biosecurity
- enable accessible knowledge and information – increase knowledge and information flow relating to environmental biosecurity
- deliver trusted leadership – facilitate a shared vision and coordinated action for environmental biosecurity matters and
- build capable people and systems – improve Australia’s environmental biosecurity capabilities to strengthen preparedness, prevention, detection, identification and diagnosis, responses, and management of environmental pests and diseases.
The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Office has spent the last year working towards these goals and has taken great strides towards improving our environmental biosecurity. This includes working with citizen science networks to involve them in environmental biosecurity efforts and funding a range of initiatives through the Environmental Biosecurity Project Fund to prevent, prepare for, detect, identify and respond to exotic environmental pests and diseases.
To learn more about CEBO and the projects supported by the Environmental Biosecurity Project Fund visit the Department of Agriculture website.