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Information for Teachers and Students

This page has been designed to provide additional information to assist teachers and students in their involvement with the Carboncatchers program.  The page has been prepared with the kind assistance of  The Riverina Anglican College in Wagga Wagga - with special thanks to Dr  Ian Grant and Mr Nathan  Reynolds.


The page contains information and links to other sites on Biodiversity Conservation and the Carbon Cycle.


Human development has profoundly impacted the natural environment. Even before European settlement the indigenous inhabitants of Australia shaped the environment mostly as a result of their use of fire. The British settlers brought the prevailing European attitudes towards the environment with them. At that time the landscape was deemed as largely resilient to any human endeavour. The factory owners during the Industrial Revolution saw the rivers and waterways as dumping opportunities for waste material. The atmosphere was also considered capable of holding any excess byproduct of industry. Through the first five decades of the twentieth century atmospheric pollution was still widely regarded as unavoidable if progress was to be made. Ironically one of the driving forces behind industrialisation was the betterment of the quality of human life.

It was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that a popular movement developed that began to lobby Governments to see natural resources as a socially beneficent public objective. The acclaimed Yellowstone Park was the world’s first National Park in 1872 although even that status in the end did not exclude the area from commercial exploitation at a future time. Seven years later, in 1879, the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, was gazetted by the New South Wales Colonial Government as the world’s first National Park that excluded any commercial usage aside from recreation.

Over successive decades of the twentieth century Governments, at public insistence, have been persuaded to pass laws protecting certain classes of wildlife and to control the impact of environmental pollution on human health and welfare. This has occurred at a time when fewer people in western cultures have continued to have their identity shaped by the soil.

The concept of the benefits from tree preservation and planting is not a new one. The only condition applied in the allocation of land grants to the settlers of the First Fleet who landed in 1788 was that existing trees could not be cut down without permission of the Governor. In this case it was not to protect trees for their environmental impact but to preserve timber that might be able to be harvested for naval spars. Other countries passed local pieces of legislation to preserve some flora. The United States Congress, for example, passed an Act to ‘encourage the growth of timber on the western prairies’, known as the Timber Culture Act in 1873. The Act granted 160 acre blocks to settlers if they cultivated trees on a fourth of the land for ten years. Unfortunately, like many environmental initiatives, the Act proved unenforceable and was repealed in1891.


The first use of the word ‘conservation’ in the context of preserving the natural environment was not widely used in or in the wider world community until the 1960s. Remarkable progress has been made since that time and there is now world wide interest and debate in areas of climate change, sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity. Education on these issues entered curriculum agendas through the 1980s and is now seen as an essential component in a number of subject disciplines.


 The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage commissioned the Australian Research Institute in Education for Sustainability (ARIES) in early 2004 to produce a series titled ‘A National Review of Environmental Education and its Contribution to Sustainability.’ Five volumes were produced over the next two years. School education was featured in Volume 2. An executive summary is available at

Related Links

The following is a list of websites that will assist teachers and students with a number of environmental issues :


Australian Education Curriculums and the Environment  is an essential starting point to view research projects commissioned by the Australian Government.  lists education curriculums state by state and suggests where issues such as biodiversity can be studied.


Australian Biodiversity

Australian Museum Online looks at Australian biodiversity by examining the topics of Extinction, Loss of Habitat and Loss of Species looks at how you can help by examining Sustainable Living, Community Biodiversity and Backyard Bio Diversity

National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation

Targets for biodiversity are discussed at

Australian biodiversity rivals any in the world. It is ancient, extensive and unique. We know there are many species and natural communities found nowhere else on Earth. looks at Understanding Biodiversity.


Conserving Biodiversity and Biodiversity Sustainability looks at ’s Wildlife Conservancy. is one of only seventeen countries recognised as "mega-diverse", meaning we support a significant proportion of the world’s biodiversity. Over 80% of our mammals, reptiles and flowering plants are endemic (found only in ). Topics covered include Species list and Conservation status, Threatened wildlife / ecosystems / plants and Carbon Calculators and Offset in .


The Carbon Cycle shows how to offset your greenhouse gas emissions in three easy steps. It provides a simple way to calculate your environmental impact and help save our environment. provides a discussion of The Tree Carbon Calculator. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store (sequester) it as carbon in the plant material and in the surrounding soil. Over the last 300 years the activities of humans (such as the burning of fossil fuels, and vegetation clearing) have lead to a large increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Other topics include The Greenhouse Effect? What is carbon sink? Why are sinks important? and How can Carbon sinks help combat global warming? looks at CO2 Science. These calculators estimate the greenhouse gas emissions from your daily activities and learn about opportunities to save energy and money. discusses the Carbon Cycle in . Carbon occurs in all living things and forms nearly 10 million known compounds. Carbon is the major chemical constituent of most organic matter, from fossil fuels to the complex molecules (DNA and RNA) that control genetic reproduction in living organisms

Since the industrial revolution, people have been putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than plants, soils and oceans have been able to absorb. People have strained the system. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen, and are continuing to rise. As a result of increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, global climate is changing. provides research from the Australian Antartica Division. In the Southern Ocean and the Carbon Cycle: unfinished business there is a discussion of ’s research in the Antartica. Over the past ten years we have unravelled much of the major mystery that surrounded the role of the Southern Ocean in the global carbon cycle. We have made major advances in quantifying Southern Ocean uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, and the role of Southern Ocean biological productivity in the transfer of carbon to the deep sea. reviews the debate on the Carbon Cycle. The movement of carbon, in its many forms, between the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and geosphere is described by the carbon cycle. There is discussion of What is the Carbon Cycle?

Other interesting sites include