United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is an international special UN agency which performs its duties in the programs like social and human science, culture and natural science. It also has a responsibility of conserving the environment and in that case, it has established many environmental conservation organizations across the globe which have selected some environmental and natural sites which need attention and protection against damage by human activities so as to ensure ecological diversity in the world. It has educated people on the importance of protecting these sites as they are of much value to everyone whether they benefit a person directly or indirectly. Components of the environment like water, air and soil are also covered in the activities performed by ENESCO.
Wet Tropics of Queensland
Wet Tropics of Queensland is an area stretching along the north/east of Australian coast. It covers a distance of 450km and is mainly covered by the tropical rainforest. It has a wide variety of biotic and abiotic species. Birds, marsupials and some of the rare endangered plant and animal species are among the things found in this ecological region. The ENESCO selected this site because of its reach biodiversity as well as the challenges it has been facing of degradation. The aim of selecting this site by the UNESCO was to ensure that no further degradation would take place as well as regenerating the degraded patches of the forest.
Significance of the Site
As mentioned above, the wet tropics stretches at the northeast coast of Australia, covering a distance of 450k kilometers. It extends to an area of 894,420 hectares and a larger part of the area is a tropical rainforest. The fact that is a rich biodiversity with over 107 mammal species, 3000 plant species, 368 bird species, 113 reptile species and 51 species of amphibians makes site immensely beautiful (world Heritage, 2016). It has a record of being a part of the evolutionary and ecological processes which shaped the Australian fauna and flora like mangrove forests, tropical forest and barrier reefs. It is also linked to the great Gondwanan forests which covered Antarctica almost 100 millions of years in the past. This site is established to be the home of Australias marsupials and other animals as well. It is a source of information for the evolution process of plant and animal species found in Australia, possesses natural beauty, splendid far-reaching landscapes as well as complex scenic topographies like wild rivers, coastal scenery, waterfalls, coral reefs, sandy beaches rugged gorges ("The Wet Tropics of Queensland - Overview - World Heritage Places - Queensland", n.d.). Unlike other tropical rainforests, this site is prone to cyclonic events accompanied by dry seasons. With all these important ecological elements the site harbors, as well as being an intact ecosystem with minimal human impacts as compared to other regions with tropical rainforest, it was selected by the UNESCO so as to ensure its biodiversity and ecosystem is retained. It is a unique forest of its kind and an entire degradation of the forest would cause adverse effects and loss vital information source which is used in scientific fields like in medicine and study of plant and animal fossils.
Ecological Damage Done on the Wet Tropics of Queensland
Over the recent years, the Wet Tropics have been a target by a human who encroaches to it with different reasons which end up degrading the region and making it lose its original beauty. It all started with the European colonists who cleared the forest in the wet tropics to create space for growing and production of wheat. People have degraded a better part of the lowland forest for the purpose of agricultural activities. People know that this is a virgin land which has a fertile soil and has not been contaminated with chemicals like plant fertilizers in any way. They are assured that the crops they will cultivate on this soil will thrive and grow well due to a lot of natural minerals found here. By carrying out agriculture on this site, they clear large pieces of forest. The ultimate result of this activity is the loss of the biodiversity. Many plant and animal species are lost in the process. The large numbers of animals that reside here are forced to migrate and those that cannot save their lives are attacked and killed by the human beings. The activity of burning down of vegetation by farmers to create land for agricultural activities end up altering the soil's pH and making it acidic, which to some extent cannot support some of the plant species. The farm inputs applied by the farmers like fertilizers also affect the quality of the soil as well as affecting the insects which used exist freely in that place before the human encroachment to the region.
Another degrading activity of human beings to the site is mining. The region is a rich source of minerals and people have encroached to the site for mining to acquire the natural minerals. The results of the mining are depletion of the natural minerals which existed in the region, and this consequently leads to the withering and death of plant species which used the minerals for photosynthetic and nutritional purposes. Mining also leaves open holes and pits which pose a danger to the wild animals which live in this region. During the mining process, the machines that are used in the process produce a lot of noise which disturbs the animals and makes them migrate to areas with minimal noise. Mining also involves the clearing of the vegetation cover to go deeper into the ground in search of the mineral, therefore leading to biodiversity loss. In general, mining in the lower region of this site has resulted in the loss of the beautiful scenic beauty that existed for decades in the region. The current state of this part of the site is not good and action needs to be taken to control these destructions
Additional human activity which has led to dreadful conditions in the lower region of the Wet Tropical is development activities where access roads have been constructed and transmission cables and lines established. The roads are a potential danger to the wild animals which might be knocked over by the vehicle as they try to cross the road (Goosem, 2012). Smoke from the vehicle also affect the animals and plants greatly, which some plants are withering and die off. Construction of the road was also a non-environmental process because the part of the forest where the road is built had to be cleared to pave the way for the road. This process of soil disturbance is another cause of flooding and clogging which has been experienced in the region. On the other hand, the transmission lines and cable threaten the lives of flying animals which can be intertwined by the cables as they try to fly and move from one place to another. These cables deter smooth navigation of birds and they could end up migrating other regions where there are no disturbances in any form, or as well migrate and end up dying due to the unfavorable conditions they experience in their new environments.
All these human activities in the Wet Tropics have made Australia lose up to 40% of the tropical forest (Bradshaw, 2012). Surprisingly, Queensland, which was the largest of the forests in a word was dubbed a global deforestation hotspot due to the rapid rate of forest clearance.
Plans to Combat Ecological Damage Gone in the Wet Tropical Queensland
From the above damages which have been caused to wet tropical, everyone one concerned with the preservation of the environment especially the international bodies and organizations have found it necessary to act immediately and come up with effective measures to combat the prevailing situation. If no action is taken at all, we could end up losing the whole forest from insensitive people who keep on clearing and encroaching into the forest not keeping in mind the great dangers this pose to the environment and humanity as a whole. They only see the present benefits they get from the forest clearing but the aftermath effects with be irreversible and hard to manage, and if managed will take it will take many years to transform the site back to how it used to be.
Without there being clear policies set for the purpose of protecting the remaining parts of the forest and regenerating the lost forest regions in Australian Wet Tropics of Queensland, this country will most likely end up losing all its forest. The management should stress on the maintenance of the areas which have been cleared in the forest, paying attention to regenerating those areas between the patches so as to increase ecosystem functions and connectivity.to curb this situation of ecosystem degradation although it has been going on, Australia started to preserve its natural ecosystems in the mid-90s. Its forest cover is now over 11%. This is to mean that 16% of native forest in Australia is well protected by the managements (Bradshaw, 2012). Areas which had been modified by the humans like mining zones, grazing regions and forestry areas have been captured and are already being retired to how they initially used to be.
A new effort to combat ecosystem degradation in the Wet Tropical Queensland was the joint signing of an agreement between Australia and Queensland, where they jointly approved to manage and fund the Wet Tropics as well as establishing the Wet Tropic Management Scheme. From this agreement the Wet Tropics Management Authority was born, and a committee to provide scientific advice, represent the viewpoint of the community and interest groups of the whole community. Commonwealth Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Conservation Act of 1994 and the Wet Tropics Act of 1993 give effect to operational and administrative aspects as well as aiding the execution of Australias duties in the World Heritage agreement (world heritage, 2016). With these acts, the relevant authorities are obligatory to create a yearly report on the state of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Areas for both the parliaments of the Commonwealth and the Queensland.
An added Act, the Wet Tropics Management Plan of 1998 was established to normalize the damaging activities that were done on this site. Anyone conducting any activity in the site was required to obtain a permit from the authority and if not so the authority would take strict measures against them. In giving out of the licenses, the authority considered the integrity of the site before handing out the document. The Queensland Government has reassigned previous forestry tenures to secure areas tenures, which has increased the percentage of protected areas from 14% to 65%. This transfer of protected areas has enabled maintenance management regime which is harmonious.
A commendable action to help restraint ecosystem degradation by the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was to impose a penalty on anyone who does any action that is likely or will have negative impacts on the selected World Heritage sites. The local communities and the relevant stakeholders to these world heritage sites and ecosystems play a significant role in protection the sites and keeping off those who encroach to these areas since they are the immediate neighbors to the sites. For this reason, it is good to make sure that they are involvement in the actions that the relevant authorities take in the management and protection of these sites. The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area Regional Agreement is responsible for the inclusion of the local people and other stakes holders in the protection of the Wet Tropics, and also encouraging them to keep watch of these sites for the presence of the malicious people who are after destroying these precious and delicate regions ("World Heritage Outlook", n.d.). A...
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