Ecosystems and biodiversity
Climate change is emerging as a serious threat to native species and ecosystems and is expected to be an ongoing challenge to the effective conservation of these assets.
Rising temperatures and sea levels and climate-induced changes in fire regimes, water quality and ocean chemistry will have a wide-ranging impact on biodiversity in NSW. Climate change is also expected to intensify existing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat loss, weeds and pest animals, and drought.
Species that have survived previous climatic changes by evolving, moving or changing their behaviour may find it more difficult to use these coping strategies when the change is rapid, especially where their habitat is degraded or lost.
The most vulnerable ecosystems include coastal ecosystems, alpine areas, rainforests, fragmented terrestrial ecosystems and areas vulnerable to fire or low freshwater availability.
Species that could become endangered or extinct include those living near the upper limit of their temperature range (for example, in alpine regions); those with restricted climatic niches; and those that cannot migrate to new habitats due to habitat fragmentation or lack of alternatives. For those species capable of dispersal, action is required to ensure that there is sufficient remnant habitat, control of invasive species and to ensure that linkages (including dispersal vectors) between habitats exist.
Research on climate change impacts on ecological processes
Before embarking on costly reserve acquisition or restoration of cleared land, research is required to understand the likely best and most cost-effective protection measures for all flora and fauna (and not just the highly mobile components) across a diverse array of landscapes and habitat types in NSW. This requires a comprehensive assessment of how ecological processes are impacted by climate changes for different types of organisms, including threatened species and how the structure and composition of communities will change.
Helping biodiversity adapt
Addressing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity will require a long-term effort and new ways of thinking. To help species and ecosystems cope with climate change, OEH has developed Priorities for Biodiversity Adaptation to Climate Change (10771prioritiesbioadaptcc.pdf, 1296 KB).
These priorities will focus on four key areas:
Enhancing our understanding of the likely responses of biodiversity to climate change and re-adjusting management programs where necessary.
Protecting a diverse range of habitats through building a comprehensive, adequate and representative public reserve system in NSW, with a focus on under-represented bioregions.
Increasing opportunities for species to move across the landscape by working with partners and the community to protect habitat and create the necessary connections across landscapes.
Assessing adaptation options for ecosystems most at risk from climate change in NSW.
The priorities document draws on the NSW Climate Impact Profile which has assessed the likely impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems in NSW.
This document is a Statement of Intent in response to the listing of climate change as a Key Threatening Process.
Page last updated: 25 March 2013