Climate Impacts & Adaptation

Australia’s oceans are rapidly changing as the climate becomes warmer and more variable.
The effects of past and present human activities have committed the world to at least a further 0.5-1 oC of average warming, with further changes across all ocean processes expected.  Over the next twenty years Australia’s marine ecosystems are expected to exhibit some of the largest climate-driven changes in the Southern Hemisphere.  These changes will extend from the ecosystems to the local communities and seafood businesses.  Navigating a sustainable path forward requires close collaboration between science, industry, policy makers and communities. This begins with making sure information on the implications and impacts of climate change for Australian marine systems is readily accessible, fit for purpose and easily interpretable and usable. Such access will allow for all concerned to plan their operations, to avoid or mitigate negative impacts, and to make the most of new opportunities that arise.

Domain Lead:  Eva Plaganyi


Research Pages:

As ecosystems change it can be helpful to understand what change has already happened, what change is expected and how you might adapt. The CSIRO collaborated with researchers, fisheries managers and fishers from around Australia to create a handbook that sets out the steps for what kind of change is occurring in an ecosystem and how fisheries and management could be modified to cope. (FRDC Project 2016-059)


Investigating habitat preferences of southern bluefin tuna (SBT) in the Great Australian Bight (GAB) based on historical archival tag, catch and aerial survey data, and to provide forecasts of habitat distribution.  (FRDC Project 2012/239)


Marine heatwaves are examples of extreme events that affect oceans, ecosystems and humans (Smale et al. 2019).  A marine heatwave is a discrete prolonged anomalously warm water event, with a duration of 5 or more days, temperatures greater than the 90th percentile. MRI scientists have contributed to work by the Marine Heatwaves International Working Group (Hobday et al 2016), including a categorisation system to allow researchers and policy makers to define these extreme events (Hobday et al. 2018) and study the effects on biological systems.

The Marine Heatwave Tracker allows visualisation and analysis of current and historical events.


  • Measuring adaptation to a rapidly changing environment – Community of Practice Project

Understanding the ability of organisms, communities and ecosystems to adapt to a rapidly changing environment will be essential to predicting their ability to survive the predicted global changes and to predict changes in ecosystem function.  Horizontal gene transfer, epigenomic modification, changes in the microbiome and other “horizon” areas of –omics research could confer the phenotypic plasticity required to expand physiological tolerances.  This community of practice will discuss both how we would develop the capability required to measure adaptation to a changing environment as well as how to integrate this information in to models used to predict ecosystem responses.

The project leaders hosted a two day workshop in February 2020, and have summarised future directions in the following fact sheets.

Factsheet 1 – genomics capability

Factsheet 2 – Marine microbiota adaptation and heatwaves

Factsheet 3 – genomics to predict pheotypic plasticity


Case Studies:

Publications and Reports  ⇒

Other Resources: