Formed across the expanse of time beginning 1650 million years ago, the features of Cape York Peninsula - the river-etched great escarpment, extensive alluvial fans of the west coast, and long white parabolic dunes of the east coast - are set in an equally expansive, mostly undeveloped landscape providing an aesthetic rarely experienced elsewhere. The integrity of natural systems - rainforests, woodlands, reefs, grasslands and wetlands - across entire catchments give Cape York Peninsula a landscape that is second to none.
Cape York has Australia’s highest concentration of rare and threatened species and restricted endemics. There are an estimated 350+ state, federal and internationally listed threatened species.
Intertwined with these landscapes are deep spiritual, historical and cultural connections of the people of Cape York, particularly the Indigenous people who have been managing this landscape for tens of thousands of years. These connections have honed profound cultural stories and ecological knowledge of country.
Listening to people’s values of Cape York, most talk about country and biodiversity, frequently making reference to the pristine nature of the environment and the importance of conserving it. These values are complex and deep. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have a spiritual connection to country and species, and appreciate the beauty of nature. The threat of losing species is a major motivation for conservation actions. People on Cape York and beyond use many resources and services that come from healthy country and high biodiversity. Keeping the connection to country and the land is central to why people live on Cape York.
The interaction of multiple continuous threats to the landscape are causing a degradation in ecosystems and species, particularly noticed through mammal decline. At the same time, recent land handbacks and increased access to country by Indigenous people have changed opportunities for management. There is a significant push to recognise and protect Indigenous ecological knowledge and develop skills to manage the land.
What are the key issues?
The multiple threats to biodiversity and ecosystems are often the top concern of people in Cape York. These threats include changed fire regimes, increased road development, spread of weeds, increase in feral animals, erosion and water pollution, the potential for new diseases to impact fauna, grazing pressures and changes in climate. The ability to manage these biodiversity threats and improve the health of country is hindered by poor coordination across the landscapes, poor systematic data of the ecosystems and populations of species and inappropriate governance. There are also land tenure issues, loss of Indigenous cultural values and knowledge and poor access to country.
Aspirational Program Goals
- Improved health and protection of threatened species and ecosystems
- Improved Western and Indigenous knowledge for the management of country and biodiversity
- Healthy country that supports threatened species and communities