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Australian scientists call for tougher restrictions on land clearing

Declaration says tighter laws are needed to reduce impact of vegetation loss on climate change.

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A bulldozer clears tropical forest on the boundary of Wooroonooran National Park in Queensland, Australia

Land clearing in Australia has increased significantly in the past ten years.Credit: Suzanne Long/Alamy

Nearly four hundred Australian scientists have signed a letter protesting against a steep rise in land clearing over the past decade. They have called on national and state governments to legislate to protect native vegetation.

The letter describes Australia as a ‘global deforestation hotspot’, following the relaxation of laws protecting native vegetation in New South Wales and Queensland in the past ten years. Land clearing has been linked to increases in the number of threatened species, the letter states, while also contributing to climate change, which heightens the risk of bushfires and drought.

Meanwhile, a national government inquiry is currently considering the impact on agriculture of policies that restrict vegetation clearing, including restrictions introduced in Queensland last year. When the review was announced in December, the minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud, suggested such restrictions were increasing bushfire risk by adding to the amount of flammable material on farms.

But scientists say that evidence does not support the claim that restricting land clearing increases fire risk. And removing vegetation to create fire breaks or reduce combustible load remains exempt from landing clearing restrictions in Queensland.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00856-w
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