Anthropogenic Climate Change - key threatening process listing

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list Anthropogenic Climate Change as a KEY THREATENING PROCESS on Schedule 3 of the Act. Listing of Key Threatening Processes is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. The distribution of most species, populations and communities is determined, at least at some spatial scale, by climate.

2. Climate change has occurred throughout geological history and has been a major driving force for evolution.

3. There is evidence that modification of the environment by humans may result in future climate change. Such anthropogenic change to climate may occur at a faster rate than has previously occurred naturally. Climate change may involve both changes in average conditions and changes to the frequency of occurrence of extreme events.

4. Response of organisms to future climate change (however caused) is likely to differ from that in the past because it will occur in a highly modified landscape in which the distribution of natural communities is highly modified. This may limit the ability of organisms to survive climate change through dispersal (Brasher & Pittock 1998; Australian Greenhouse Office 1998). Species at risk include those with long generations, poor mobility, narrow ranges, specific host relationships, isolate and specialised species and those with large home ranges (Hughes & Westoby 1994). Pest species may also be advantaged by climate change.

5. Modelling of the distribution of species under realistic climate change scenarios suggests that many species would be adversely affected unless populations were able to move across the landscape (for example, Brereton, Bennett and Mansergh 1995). Examples of species which would be at risk in New South Wales include:


Burramys parvus - Mountain Pygmy-possum

Potorous longipes - Long-footed Potoroo

Mastacomys fuscus - Broad-toothed rat

Pseudomys fumeus - Smoky mouse


Leipoa ocellata - Malleefowl

Pedionomus torquatus - Plains-wanderer

Tyto tenebricosa - Sooty Owl

Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne - Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Polytelis anthopeplus - Regent Parrot

Petroica rodinogaster - Pink Robin

Pachycephala rufogularis - Red-lored Whistler


Delma impar - Striped Legless lizard


Litoria spenceri - Spotted Frog

Litoria raniformis - Southern Bell Frog

Pseudophryne pengilleyi - Northern Corroboree Frog

Pseudophryne corroboree - Southern Corroboree Frog


Communities likely to become threatened include alpine vegetation communities (Busby 1988, Hughes & Westoby 1994).

6. The present protected area network was not designed specifically to accommodate climate change, and the present biodiversity values of the protected area system may not all survive under different climatic conditions (see Pouliquen-Young, O. 1999). Conservation planning at the landscape scale could provide opportunities for species to respond to future climate change and the Threat Abatement Plan could address modifications to the present protected area network to account for climate change.

7. Fire is an integral part of the dynamics of many Australian ecosystems. Studies suggest that the risk of fire may increase in some areas as the climate changes and decrease in others with consequent changes to the species composition and structure of ecological communities (Brasher & Pittock 1998; NSW Scientific Committee 2000).

8. In view of the above, the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that Anthropogenic Climate Change adversely affects two or more threatened species or could cause species, populations or ecological communities that are not threatened to become threatened.

Gazettal date: 17/11/00
Exhibition period: 3/11/00 - 8/12/00


Australian Greenhouse Office (1998): The National Greenhouse Strategy. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Brasher, R.E. and Pittock, A.B. (1998): Australasian Impacts of Climate Change. An Assessment of Vulnerability. In Watson, R.T., Zinyowera, M.C., Moss, R.H. and Dokken, D.J. "The Regional Impacts of Climate Change. An assessment of Vulnerability", IPCC Report. Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra.

Brereton, R., Bennett, S. and Mansergh, I. (1995): Enhanced Greenhouse climate change and its potential effect on selected fauna of south-eastern Australia: a trend analysis. Biological Conservation 72, 339-354.

Busby, J.R. (1988): Potential impacts of climate change on Australia's flora and fauna. In 'Greenhouse. Planning for climate change.'ed. G.I.Pearman, pp. 387-98, CSIRO.

Hughes, W. & Westoby, M. (1994): Climate change and conservation policies in Australia: coping with change that is far away and not yet certain. Pacific Conservation Biology 1: 308-18

NSW Scientific Committee (2000): Final Determination to list High Frequency Fire as a Key Threatening Process in the Schedules of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. NSW Scientific Committee, Sydney.

Pouliquen-Young, O. (1999): The implications of climate change for land-based nature conservation strategies. Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra.