Designing landscapes for biodiversity under climate change: Summary for landscape managers and policy makers

TitleDesigning landscapes for biodiversity under climate change: Summary for landscape managers and policy makers
Publication TypeReport

Project Page   Final Report

Year of Publication2013
AuthorsDoerr, V, Williams, K, Drielsma, M, Doerr, E, Davies, M, Love, J, Langston, A, Low-Choy, S, Manion, G, E. Cawsey, M, McGinness, H, Jovanovic, T, Crawford, D, Austin, M, Ferrier, S
InstitutionNational Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
CityGold Coast
ISBN Number978-1-925039-47-4

Climate change is expected to result in significant changes in temperature, rainfall and evaporation, with the degree of change projected to accelerate. As a result, Australia’s native species will experience different local environments than they do now and will need to adjust to those environmental changes, move to live elsewhere, or go extinct. Large populations and well connected natural areas may be required for species to make these adjustments, but both of these have been impacted by alteration of land uses and fragmentation of natural areas. Thus, landscape design and management is one of the primary ways in which land managers can assist biodiversity under climate change. Under landscape design and management, areas to be managed and/or restored for biodiversity are planned in very specific locations over relatively large scales with the aim of achieving large populations, spread over multiple patches of native ecosystems in the landscape and intermingled with other necessary land uses.

Many landscape design and management initiatives are underway in Australia and they differ in their specific details. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether one set of these ‘landscape design principles’ is better than another as a climate adaptation action. This is because design principles are developed based on current landscapes rather than future, climate-affected landscapes. Yet future landscapes may be very different in terms of where we might find particular native species and in terms of land uses, including the amount of intensive agricultural production and plantings for carbon sequestration. All these potential changes could affect where native species live and the degree to which the landscape is connected to allow species movements. Thus, we need to evaluate how well different landscape design principles perform in future landscapes. Because we can’t predict exactly what future landscapes will be like, we need to consider a broad range of possible futures and try to identify landscape design approaches that are likely to benefit native species across all of them.

To accomplish these goals, we modelled a range of plausible future landscapes and applied the most common current landscape design principles to these landscapes (as well as an aspirational design principle). We then evaluated the degree to which the design principles might improve the capacity of the landscapes to support populations of native species in the long term, and decrease their capacity to support two key invasive species. Our goal was to find one or more landscape design principles that improved all future landscapes for native species, as such an outcome would allow us to plan for the future without having to know precisely what the future will look like.

In the final report for this project, we worked with two case study landscapes: SouthEast New South Wales (the Southern Rivers, Murray and Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority areas) and North-East New South Wales (the Border Rivers/Gwydir, Namoi and Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority areas).

Refereed DesignationRefereed