Photo: Conservation groups say more than 1 million hectares of trees have been bulldozed in Queensland since 2013. (ABC Rural: Marty McCarthy)
Queensland has been rated as a "contemporary hot spot" for land clearing and is on par with places like Brazil, a new study has found.The paper published today has found the parts of Queensland that have been cleared the most in the past, are also being cleared the most now.
Remote areas including the Cape York Peninsula are also being cleared.
Dr April Reside from the University of Queensland (UQ) said drastic changes are needed to save species and protect habitat.
"Land clearing in Queensland is the highest that it has been in the last 10 years," Dr Reside said."We have 95 threatened species of animal, 12 threatened species of plant that are impacted by land clearing."
Dr Reside said practices such as thinning, where up to 75 per cent of vegetation in an area can be cleared, is regulated by the landowner.
"It means that the mammals, the birds and the reptiles that are impacted by cat predation suddenly have nowhere to hide so they start to decline," Dr Reside said.
UQ researcher Dr Leonie Seabrook said Queensland had one of the highest land clearing emissions rates in Australia.
"We spend a lot of money conserving our biodiversity and our Great Barrier Reef but the actions that land clearing has completely undermine those," she said.
Photo: Farmers and environmental groups have been presenting conflicting views at tree clearing hearings throughout Queensland this week. (Marty McCarthy)
UNESCO has blamed land clearing as a concern for the health of the Great Barrier Reef and says increased efforts are needed.
"In the lifetime of a child born today, we will have no trees left if it continues at the rate it is going and that means no habitat," Dr Seabrook said.
Statewide Landcover and Trees Statistics (SLATS) show about 295,000 hectares of land are cleared every year.
But AgForce chief executive officer Charles Burke said that data had not accurately measured regrowth rates.
"It only covers one side, it only specifically talks about the vegetation that has been removed," he said.
"It's like mowing your lawn — you mow your lawn today, it regrows and then you do it again next week."
Issue set to be major battleground in state electionMr Burke is convinced land clearing will be a key issue in the next Queensland election.
Policy expert Megan Evans said it was land clearing by stealth in Queensland.
"We need a long-term incentive to enable land holders to get a financial income from retaining and protecting vegetation," she said.The Palaszczuk Government failed to get toughened tree clearing laws through State Parliament last year.
"It didn't go far enough in terms of providing more rigour and structure in terms of self-assessable codes," Ms Evans said.
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said he was committed to implementing changes if Labor were re-elected.
"This report serves to reinforce just how disastrous the level of clearing happening in Queensland right now is," he said."We haven't settled exactly what we will take to the election, we have committed that we will take land clearing laws, sensible land clearing laws, that will drive down the rate of land clearing."
The LNP declined an interview but said the party's support for famers on this issue was well known.
In a statement, LNP Opposition natural resources spokesman Andrew Cripps said the SLATS data was not an accurate representation of what was happening on the ground.
"The Queensland Government has already admitted its SLATS data fails to accurately measure the vegetation that regrows every year across Queensland's farming and grazing land," he said.