The implications of climate change for Australia’s biodiversity conservation and protected areas

CSIRO research has found climate change is likely to lead to significant impacts on biodiversity by 2030, and widespread and in many cases extreme impacts by 2070.

To help inform conservation management of Australia’s protected areas, researchers analysed the impacts of climate change on native species and ecosystems Australia-wide, including four priority biomes (regional-scale ecosystem with broadly similar climates):

  • northern savanna grasslands: wet and dry tropics, including grassy savanna woodlands (Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia)
  • south-east Australian sclerophyll forests: wet and dry sclerophyll forests (New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia)
  • Hummock grasslands of central Australia: Spinifex grasslands, and acacia and eucalypt woodlands with spinifex understory (Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Queensland and New South Wales)
  • Temperate lowland grassy ecosystems: tussock grasslands, grassy woodlands (eastern Australia ie New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland).

The research focused on understanding the environmental changes which will drive biodiversity change in these biomes and the management responses which may be required.

It included synthesising published information, expert and stakeholder knowledge, and new information from ecosystem modelling analyses.

The main areas of activity involved:

  • producing four biome-specific reviews of baseline information and the potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems within each biome
  • expert and stakeholder workshops on the implications of climate change for conservation and the reserve system in each biome
  • modelling potential impacts at biome-scale, using three complementary quantitative techniques
    synthesising results for each biome
  • analysing and synthesising results across the four biomes, including qualitative analyses of the implications of climate change for conservation in the biome and the NRS, highlighting common lessons, regionally specific lessons, and assessing the potential usefulness and limitations of different types of information for regional assessments across all biomes in Australia.

The research finding were presented and discussed in a workshop with representatives from the Australian Government and state biodiversity, natural resource management and climate change policy agencies.

Key issues for current and future conservation policy were identified and formed the basis for the standalone Implications for policymakers: Climate change, biodiversity conservation and the National Reserve System publication.

The research was jointly funded by CSIRO, and Australian and state governments through the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Communities and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

The Working Papers provide greater detail of the four ecological assessments, three modelling projects and the down-scaled climate change scenarios that contributed to the overall project.

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