Limits to climate change adaptation in floodplain wetlands: the Macquarie Marshes

Media type: 
Jenkins, K.M.
Kingsford, R.T.
Wolfenden, B.J.
Whitten, S.
Parris, H.
Sives, C.
Rolls, R.
Hay, S.
Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre
University of New South Wakes
New South Wales

This report identifies the likely risks, impacts of climate change, adaptation strategies and limits for the ecological and social communities of the Macquarie Marshes. The ecological community includes waterbirds, vegetation, fish, invertebrates, carbon cycling, woodland birds and frogs. The socio-economic dimension identifies wetland values, indigenous values, grazing, irrigation and recreation. Adaptation strategies include: migration, environmental flow allocations, water savings, restoration of deep pools, protection of core refugia, dam reoperation and options to store extra water for low flows. Adaptation limits include: ecological, physical, economic, technological and social dimensions estimated based on the adaptation strategies.


•We reviewed literature for climate change adaptation in floodplain wetlands.

•We identified risks and thresholds for key biota.

•We developed climate change scenarios for the Macquarie Marshes.

•We tested these scenarios in a stakeholder workshop and in interviews with landholders.

•The key stressor of climate change in the Macquarie Marshes is the loss of flooding, but the impact of water regulation on loss of flooding is far greater than that which is projected with climate change by 2030 under any scenario.

•Based on the literature we identified two autonomous adaptations, 4 physical adaptations, 7 institutional/political adaptations and 8 land management adaptations. Most of these actions are at varying stages of application to counter impacts of loss of flooding due to regulation.

•Stakeholders identified 16 high priority adaptations in a workshop and discussed their limits and implementation.

•Water buy-back and environmental flows are key adaptations, but also developing an adaptive management plan, social capital, responsive institutional frameworks and preserving free-flowing rivers.

•Landholders graze the Macquarie Marshes using an adaptive approach to deal with variability in the system.

•They identified the loss of flooding and variability as key impacts of regulation that reduced their resilience.

•Landholders have developed many practices to adapt to the loss of flooding due to regulation that will enable them to adapt to climate change current projections.

Please cite this report as: 

Jenkins, KM, Kingsford, RT, Wolfenden, BJ, Whitten, S, Parris, H, Sives, C, Rolls, R & Hay, S 2012, Limits to climate change adaptation in floodplain wetlands: The Macquarie Marshes, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 159 pp.