Location and Values: Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, and one of the largest in the world’s tropics. Located in the far north of the Northern Territory it is primarily an area of fire-maintained tropical savanna woodlands, but it also preserves an astonishing diversity of other Australian ecosystems from tidal mudflats and mangroves in the coastal areas to vast expanses of freshwater wetlands and seasonally flooded forests, as well as sheer rocky cliffs and dry plateau lands. The area has been occupied by aboriginal peoples for 40,000 years and there is a wealth of cave paintings, rock carvings and archaeological sites that record the skills and lifestyle of these people over the millennia. From an ecological viewpoint, the coastal wetlands and floodplains in the north of the park are particularly dynamic environments, shaped by changing sea levels and extensive annual flooding, and providing seasonal habitat for millions of waterbirds. Kakadu supports an exceptional number of plant and animal species, with over a third of Australia’s bird species, and a quarter of the continent’s mammals recorded in the park.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of Kakadu National Park is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes that, while the park is generally well managed, there are significant ongoing threats from alien plants and animals (notably the invasive plants Mimosa pigra and Salvinia molesta; as well as Asian water buffalo and cane toads); and the incidence of uncontrolled wildfire. In addition, emerging threats related to climate change include a rise in sea levels and possible saltwater intrusion; the risk of increased frequency and intensity of wildfires; and changes in the frequency and severity of storm and drought conditions. Mining is as one of the principal threats to the property, since a uranium mine operates in an enclave within the property and uranium ore has to be transported through the property, posing a risk of radioactive contamination.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description