Our Australian Alps are changing… for the worse

Graeme L. Worboys, David Freudenberger, Roger Good, Ian Pulsford and Sam Banks, February 2015



The iconic Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves are a National Heritage Listed Place in recognition of their “outstanding heritage significance for Australia”. Few Australian natural areas attain this special status and the Alps share their listing with other famous protected areas such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Uluru–Kata Tjuta, Kakadu and Blue Mountains national parks. The Alps are special because the vast majority of Australia’s alpine and subalpine environments are found there. Relative to the Australian continent, it is very small, and for many Alps species it is the only place in the world where they can exist.

Some of the National Heritage inscription values for the Alps parks include: “Glacial and periglacial features; fossils; karst features; biological heritage; moth feasting; transhumance grazing; scientific research, water harvesting; and recreation values” 

Many of these heritage listed Alps values are being degraded in 2015 and in particular the biological and water harvesting values. A non-Australian (introduced) pest animal, the wild horse is causing serious, landscape scale impacts in the Alps and especially to its wetlands and their associated plants and animals. This statement identifies the devastating impact of these wild horses on the Alps fragile wetlands. It shows that Australian heritage values are being lost and the consequent negative implications for the Alps catchments in a climate change world. Through many images and maps, it illustrates the problem at hand.

Because of these wild horse impacts on Australia’s iconic natural heritage and catchments of national economic significance, this statement calls for urgent and effective response actions. Horses in the Alps are the wrong animal in the wrong place. They are seriously impacting our unique Australian animals, plants, and catchments and these species and catchment values are just too precious to lose.