Photo: Kristian Bell

Evidence ignored – or wilfully dismissed – in environmental policy decisions

800 scientists have endorsed a statement by the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) calling for more consideration of scientific knowledge in policy, legislation, and environmental decisions to prevent further declines in Australian species.

‘We’re alarmed that federal and state governments have continued to cut funding to science and the environment,’ said Professor Don Driscoll, President of the ESA. ‘Ecological knowledge and evidence are often not considered – or worse, wilfully dismissed – in policy decisions and management actions that affect the environment.’

The statement notes this situation is of deep concern, given Australia is home to an extraordinary array of unique plants, animals and other organisms that shape our national identity and contribute to our wellbeing and prosperity.

‘Delegates at the 2018 ESA conference – Ecology in the Anthropocene – are addressing the grandest of all society’s challenges: how to reverse the biodiversity crisis and ensure people and nature can thrive together on Earth,’ said Professor Driscoll.

He says the conference statement calls for the following urgent actions:

  1. Set meaningful and measurable targets for conserving species
  2. Substantially increase national public investment in biodiversity conservation
  3. Ensure policy, legislation, and environmental decision making are underpinned by rigorous ecological science
  4. Collaborate with Indigenous communities to include traditional ecological knowledge in decisions about ecosystem policy and management
  5. Improve monitoring of threatened species and ecosystems, and management actions
  6. Address threatening processes to prevent further species and ecosystem declines and promote recovery
  7. Revise or replace the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to provide a robust framework for upholding environmental protection and accountability
  8. Appoint and adequately resource an independent environmental commissioner, at arm’s length from government, with powers to ensure environmental laws and values are being upheld by governments
  9. Deliver strong national and international leadership and coordination across government portfolios to ensure an improving trajectory for biodiversity

Since its inception in 1959, the ESA has been dedicated to promoting ecology, supporting the application of ecological principles to protect and conserve ecosystems, and promoting the exchange of ecological knowledge for education and cultural development.

‘The conference this week has highlighted how important ESA’s mission remains almost 60 years after inception,’ said Professor Driscoll. ‘We remain committed to fulfilling this mission, and over 1000 members are ready to work with Australia’s institutions and leaders to address the challenge before us.’

The statement will be released today in Brisbane at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia, and is available at