National parks are very special places. They have many values apart from the more obvious ones of providing homes for our native wildlife and opportunities to relax outdoors and enjoy nature.
Nature provides life-sustaining processes we tend to take for granted:
- recycling carbon dioxide to release oxygen
- creating soils through decomposition
- filtering pollutants from the air and water
- storing water
Other ecological processes provided by Nature are equally vital for a healthy environment:
- controlling numbers of insect pests
- protecting soils from erosion by holding the soil in place with plants
- pollinating plants
- reducing floods by absorbing rainfall
- providing shade and timber
We cannot live without nature's ecosystem services. All things are bound together. All things connect. What happens to the Earth happens to the children of the Earth. Man has not woven the web of life. He is but one thread. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. (Anon.)
Parks protect biological diversity - the range of plant and animal species and genetic variation within a species. Most medicines and drugs are made from natural substances, the crops we harvest are based on species which once grew wild, and natural materials are used extensively in construction and industry. New uses for plants and animals are still being discovered. Parks are totally protected, providing a biological bank for the future. The species we protect today could greatly improve the quality of human life tomorrow.
The best place to study and learn about ecosystems, our place in the natural world and how we affect nature is outdoors. Through environmental education, individuals learn to appreciate and care for the natural world. So, national parks are great places for school excursions.
Parks provide a home for our native plants and animals - the essence of the Australian bush and what makes Australia special. The threat of wildlife extinction is real. Places where animals can roam free and undisturbed are an important part of an overall strategy to prevent species loss.
Recreation and tourism
For many, just the knowledge that parks exist is enough. For others, parks are a place to relax and unwind, away from the pressures of urban life. Queensland's national parks are a major asset for our tourist industry, attracting millions of international and interstate visitors every year. Parks provide employment and contribute greatly to the economy of the surrounding local area. Half of Australia's 3.1 million overseas tourists visit national parks. A quarter of all Australians are likely to take a nature-based trip in the next 12 months. Some will visit parks. The Department of Environment 1997-98 Annual Report listed the value of its land assets at more than $608 million and structural improvements at more than $25 million (depreciated) with $4.8 million as capital works in progress. Most of this related to national parks and other protected areas. Included was the purchase cost of many blocks of land not yet declared national park.
Parks protect the physical and spiritual reminders of our cultural heritage - places significant to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people and special sites associated with Queensland's past. In 1997-98 for the first time, an assessment of the worth of national park-based tourism and recreation was made in money terms. The estimate is $1.02 to $1.46 billion a year - a significant part of Queensland's economy. No less than a massive 12.5 million visitor days were now believed to be spent each year in national parks with commercial tour operators and resorts close to national parks employing more than 5300 people. More than ever, money spent on managing protected areas and providing visitor facilities had economic benefits many times the spending.
Natural areas protect our water supplies from pollution and form a scenic backdrop to our towns and rural settlements. National parks are our national treasures - the things we want to keep for our children and theirs.
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