Ecosystem change and adaptation

Within the Ecosystem Change group, we examine how the adaptation pathways approach can be used in situations where climate change is driving major shifts in ecosystems: their structure, how they work, and their constituent species. Under a warming, drying climate there are more frequent and severe bushfires that can transform the makeup of forest vegetation. Lower rainfall and higher evaporation means less water flows to rivers and wetlands. In mountain regions, there is lower snowfall and snowmelt, permanently changing the temperature and water balance of the landscape.

How do these changes to biophysical process that underpin how ecosystems operate translate into changes in benefits that people get from the natural world? How can managers respond to these changes? What options are there for people who depend on ecosystem services for their livelihoods?

We work on developing new ways to help people think and act differently about adapting to ecosystem change, via a series of case studies:

  • How changing fire regimes are altering upland forests and their ecosystem services;
  • Developing adaptation pathways approaches for grassy woodland landscapes;
  • Changes to floodplains and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin and options for adaptation;
  • How social and ecological change in alpine grazing systems can create new options for livelihoods.


For more information please contact Dr Matt Colloff


Lavorel, S., Colloff, M. J., Mcintyre, S., Doherty, M. D., Murphy, H. T., Metcalfe, D. J., … & Williams, K. J. (2015). Ecological mechanisms underpinning climate adaptation services. Global change biology, 21(1), 12-31.