Experts from a range of Australia's universities have joined forces with philanthropists to spearhead a new national think-tank to advise and advocate on biodiversity issues.
The Biodiversity Council will inform policy discussion on matters including the economic cost of biodiversity loss, conservation to enhance climate adaptation and opportunities to improve Indigenous outcomes through work on country and caring for nature.
Council convenor Professor Brendan Wintle said there was a disconnect between the public perception of biodiversity and the science.
"We have demonstrable increase in the rate of extinction," he told AAP.
"We've got a massive reduction in the average abundance of species of animals and plants, except for the invasive species."
Prof Wintle said population of Australia's animals and plant groups had declined on average 50-70 per cent since 1985.
The 2021 State of the Environment report released this year found the nation's list of threatened species was growing and forecast extinctions would increase in coming decades if current management efforts, conservation investments and regulations on habitat destruction were not increased.
"There's a lack of understanding in the public about biodiversity ... and how it underpins our prosperity, economy, food, well-being and also the state it's in," Prof Wintle said.
Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said it was her "great pleasure" to launch the council via video link on Wednesday.
"But you know as well as I do that we're seeing catastrophic declines in Australian plants and water ecosystems that threatens our economy, our food systems and water," she told the University of Melbourne event.
"I know we can turn it around. It starts with reforming our laws and listening to the experts."
The federal government will launch its response to the Samuel review of Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act on Thursday.
Council board chair and former Victorian environment minister John Thwaites said policy decision-makers had a need for timely and trusted expert guidance.
"As environment minister, I experienced the fragmentation of information and the fact it was very often not available when it was needed," Mr Thwaites told AAP.
"This council is an opportunity to bring together the great expertise we have in Australia ... to provide input, when it's needed, on political decision-making."
The council will be funded by philanthropists and 11 Australian universities, and incubated at Melbourne University.
Inaugural Chief Councillor Dr Jack Pascoe, Yuin man and Conservation and Research Manager at the Conservation Ecology Centre, said there was crucial role for the council.
"I think we're in a time where the environment is really under stress for a whole range of factors," he said.
"The recently-released State of the Environment report underscores that Australia's biodiversity is declining dangerously fast, with significant implications for our economy, food systems, health, wellbeing and culture."
Dr Pascoe said he was looking forward to ensuring First People's voices, issues and ideas were heard regarding problems facing country health.
Addressing the council launch via video link, former federal treasury secretary Ken Henry said business leaders were "crying out" for guidance on what could and should be done about Australia's biodiversity and conservation issues.
"Not many years ago, environmental experts were considered nearly a bloody nuisance; today's leaders in business and increasingly in government, can't get enough."
Australian Associated Press
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