Study report: Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds

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Subject: Study report: Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds
From: colin trainor <>
Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 09:58:11 +0930
Pdf available of full report:

This research identifies Australian water birds likely to face strong
 challenges or extinction from climate change and recommends key actions
 to secure and manage vulnerable regions for the future.
In the first continental analysis of the effects of climate change on
 a faunal group, we identified that the climate space of 101 Australian 
terrestrial and inland water bird taxa is likely to be entirely gone by 
2085, 16 marine taxa have breeding sites that are predicted to be at 
least 10% less productive than today, and 55 terrestrial taxa are likely
 to be exposed to more frequent or intense fires. 

Birds confined to Cape York Peninsula, the Wet Tropics, the Top End 
of the Northern Territory (particularly the Tiwi Islands), the arid 
zone, King Island and southern South Australia (particularly Kangaroo 
Island) are most likely to lose climate space. There was some variation 
in the predictions of the 18 climate models deployed, but all predicted 
that the rainforest avifauna of Cape York Peninsula is likely to face 
the strongest challenge from climate change, particularly taxa currently
 confined to the Iron and McIlwraith Ranges. For marine birds, those 
nesting on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and the
 Houtman Abrolhos are likely to face the greatest declines in local 
marine productivity. Changes in local marine productivity may also 
affect the endemic terrestrial birds of these islands, for which no 
climate modelling was possible. A small group of beach-nesting and 
saltmarsh birds may be affected by sea level rise. 
Many taxa, and particularly seabirds, are potentially highly 
sensitive to climate change based on a set of ecological and 
morphological metrics. Small island taxa were most likely to be both 
exposed and sensitive to climate change, followed by marine and 
shoreline taxa. While threatened birds were more likely than 
non-threatened taxa to be exposed or sensitive to climate change, or 
both, a substantial proportion was neither.

A key action that needs to be undertaken immediately is fine scale 
modelling of regions identified as having numerous highly exposed bird 
taxa, in order to identify climatic refugia within the landscape. Such 
refugia can then be secured and managed appropriately for the future. 
The most urgent ongoing action is monitoring, with support for the Atlas
 of Australian Birds seen as a particularly cost-effective investment. 
In the future, the most expensive actions will be management of refugia,
 and captive breeding should all other approaches to conservation in the
 wild fail. However, most of those for which captive breeding is 
recommended as a last resort are subspecies of species that are 
widespread, either in Australia or in New Guinea. 

For in situ management, the most important actions will be those that
 are already important – fire management, weed and feral animal control 
and, for marine taxa, controls on fishing. A small number of 
species-specific actions are suggested, and there appears to be no 
urgent requirement for corridors for the maintenance of taxa likely to 
be threatened with extinction – those few taxa not already living in 
areas where there are likely to be refugia will require assistance to 
colonise new climate space.

The cost of management over the next 50 years for persistence in the 
face of climate change of the 396 bird taxa that are very highly 
exposed, sensitive or both is estimated at $18.8 million per year – 
$47,700 per year for each taxon. The biggest ongoing costs are 
monitoring and direct species management but refugia management and 
captive breeding may eventually be needed, and will be much more 

Please cite this report as:
Garnett, S, Franklin,
 D, Ehmke, G, VanDerWal, J, Hodgson, L, Pavey, C, Reside, A, Welbergen, 
J, Butchart, S, Perkins, G, Williams, S 2013 Climate change adaptation 
strategies for Australian birds,  National Climate Change Adaptation Research 
Facility, Gold Coast. pp.109.
Visit the research project page

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