Running out of space: management sites for threatened species in New South Wales (Australia) are unlikely to be resilient to climate change

Macquarie University Linda Beaumont1, Miss Elissa McFarlane1, Dr Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez1,2, Ms Polly Mitchell3, Dr John Baumgartner1

1Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia, 2Hawkesbury Institute of Environment, Richmond, Australia, 3New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, Australia

In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, the Saving Our Species (SoS) program underpins State Government threatened species conservation efforts. Under this $100 million 5-year initiative, all ~1000 species listed as threatened have been placed into one of six management streams, aiming to secure viable populations in the environment for the next 100 years. One of the streams is designated “site-managed”, containing 440 species. Key threats for each of these species have been identified, as have management actions to mitigate these threats. Unfortunately, the selection of managed sites did not consider climate change. Given that site-managed species are typically restricted to fragmented bushland remnants, they are unlikely to be able to shift their distribution as climate changes. Our project developed habitat suitability models for 238 site-managed species, and projected them onto 12 plausible climate scenarios for each decade from 2010-2070, to (a) assess whether managed sites are likely to retain suitable habitat over time, and (b) identify whether populations beyond managed sites may be better candidates for site-management, based on habitat longevity. By 2070, only five species are likely to retain suitable conditions at all sites, under all scenarios. In contrast, 19 species are unlikely to retain suitable climate at any of their managed sites, or at locations of populations beyond managed sites. As such, for many site-managed species, alternate conservation actions, such as translocation and ex situ conservation, will be necessary for their survival. We discuss approaches being undertaken to identify which species and actions should be prioritised for intervention.


Linda is a climate change ecologist. Her work spans a range of taxa, including invasive species, those of conservation significance, drivers of key ecosystem processes, or species that cause human illness. The common thread of her research is that of the consequences of climate change. She is a Chief Investigator on two large Horticultural Innovations Australia grants (totalling $30 million) that aim, partly, to reduce the devastating impacts of horticultural pests, and to guide urban greening and biodiversity solutions for a changing climate. She also leads several projects aiming to identify species vulnerable to climate change, locate potential climate refugia and develop web-based tools for end-users to visualise and interogate climate impacts.

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