Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISBN 0 6425 5051 4
About the action plan
Changes to Australia's climate are already occurring over and above natural variability (e.g. long-term spatial and temporal changes in rainfall and temperature patterns) and these changes are expected to have an impact on Australia's biological diversity.
The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001b)1 concluded that Australia will be vulnerable to the changes in temperature and rainfall that are projected to occur over the next 100 years. The report also identified that natural resources and biodiversity conservation are likely to be strongly affected by climate change, as climate change is likely to add to the existing substantial pressures on these sectors.
There is a reasonable scientific consensus about the expected types of impacts on species and ecosystems from future climate change, and a growing catalogue of documented changes that are consistent with climate change predictions. Nevertheless, there is much uncertainty about how individual species and ecosystems will respond to the combined impacts of future climate change and other pressures on biodiversity. Despite these uncertainties, there is a range of actions that can help reduce these impacts.
In 2001 The Review of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity (ANZECC 2001) identified the need to Plan to minimise the potential impacts of human-induced climate change on biological diversity'. In response to this, the National Objectives and Targets for Biodiversity Conservation2 specified a target to develop a National biodiversity and climate change action plan (the action plan). Australian governments subsequently agreed to develop this three-year action plan, to help focus efforts on minimising the impacts of climate change on species, communities and ecosystems.
The action plan will help coordinate the activities of different jurisdictions to address the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, and will be an important step in coordinating national, state and territory government's climate change impacts and adaptation programs. As well, strategies and actions in this action plan will be integrated into the development of broader biodiversity policies and programs.
The main intent of this three-year plan is to:
- identify priority areas for research and monitoring, and improve understanding of potential climate change impacts on biodiversity to a point where specific strategies can be developed
- use existing knowledge about the impacts of climate change and draw from ecological principles to review and amend current biodiversity conservation policies and strategies
- improve communication about the impacts of climate change on biodiversity between researchers, resources managers and decision makers
- raise community awareness of the potentially significant and specific impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
The action plan elaborates this approach and sets out specific objectives, strategies and actions that will be taken to reduce the impacts of climate change on Australia's native aquatic, semi-aquatic, marine, estuarine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, and to minimise the effect of alien invasive species on biodiversity in future climates. The development and implementation of these adaptation initiatives will complement government action to mitigate climate change.
The actions proposed in this document are aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change on each of these ecosystems, and promote in situ conservation of species and ecological communities to facilitate their natural adaptation, rather than the use of high-cost interventions such as translocation and captive breeding. Key strategies include promoting ecological connectivity to aid migration and dispersal of species, protecting refuges and creating specific management zones around important habitats.
This three-year plan is only the beginning. Programs will be reviewed in 2007 and a revised plan will be developed in light of new understanding and information.
1. Convened under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
2. Environment Australia (2001) agreed by the Australian, New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and West Australian governments