A climate-smart blueprint for securing Australia’s biodiversity

Dr April Reside1, Mr James Tresize2, Professor James Watson1

1Green Fire Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 2Australian Conservation Foundation, Canberra, Australia

Australia is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change, with highly uncertain and variable rainfall across most of the continent, and trajectories of greater variability. Australia’s biodiversity is at threat from climate change and multiple other factors, culminating in unabated extinction rates. Effective conservation requires careful planning, with prioritisation of management action at the broad, even continental scale, while ensuring that it results in tangible outcomes at the local scale. Multiple studies have identified cases of Australian species redistribution as expected due to climate change, and more studies have predicted the likely shifts across many taxa. Yet no systematic coordinated conservation plan exists for conserving biodiversity under climate change across Australia. Using a systematic conservation planning framework, this work identifies the priority areas for 1771 vertebrates, considering their current distribution, and the location of suitable climate space into the future, and accounting for the ability of each species to track shifting conditions. From this, we could identify the areas that are most crucial, their level of threat and protection, and those which would best complement the existing network of protected areas across Australia. Priority areas were mostly found clustered towards the coast, as expected due to the high richness and endemism found in coastal areas. The important exceptions include particular inland mountain ranges with disproportionate biodiversity value. Protecting these crucial areas from degradation and development is a high priority for conservation into the future. Further work should identify the site-level management required to maintain biodiversity value.


April E. Reside’s research focusses on vertebrate ecology to inform conservation. Specifically, April investigates the impact of climate change on biodiversity, and strategies for climate change adaptation. This work has been used to inform spatial conservation planning that accounts for climatic refugia. April’s other work focusses on threatened species, which has led her to a greater focus on conservation policy to improve outcomes for imperilled species.

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