The values and many benefits which society derives from protected areas will be dramatically affected by climate change. In turn, they are the essential core lands of any adaptive response to secure Australia's biodiversity.
The IUCN World Commission On Protected Areas, Australia And New Zealand
The National Reserve System is Australia's natural safety net in the face of threats from climate change.
Healthy, functioning and resilient environments are our best defence against a changing climate. Protected areas build resilience by controlling other habitat threats such as weeds and feral animals, by managing water resources and regenerating vegetation. They form a buffer against the impacts of climate change, providing refuges for species to survive and adapt, reducing the extinction risk for our native species.
By creating these havens across the landscape, the National Reserve System is providing the best conditions for Australia's native plants and animals to adapt to climate change.
The vast protected areas in arid Central and Western Australia, home to a wide range of fauna and flora, are resilient self-sustaining ecosystems in themselves. However along the agricultural zones of the south-western and eastern seaboards, the country is fragmented by land clearing, extensive pastoralism and intensive agriculture. Here the reserve system is building resilience by extending and linking protected areas to extend habitat ranges, to increase connectivity, protect water catchments and to reduce soil erosion.
The National Reserve System also plays a vital role in storing carbon. More than one-quarter of Australia's above ground biological carbon stock, some 20 million hectares of international Kyoto forest, lies in our protected areas. This part of our Kyoto forest accounts for 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon, equal to 5.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - more than the total emissions produced by Australia in a decade.
Making sure this carbon stays put is a management priority. Around the world, to avoid even faster global warming, management to retain and enhance carbon sinks will play a critical role in climate change mitigation. By reducing soil erosion, disease, wildfire and feral damage, and by regeneration and rehabilitation, National Reserve System managers are protecting and increasing our massive carbon stocks.
In addition, many protected areas in the National Reserve System are centres of scientific research, providing important data on how native species are coping with changes in their environment. This data is the foundation for future adaptation strategies.
- Henbury Conservation Project
- Case study: Mt Zero-Taravale Sanctuary
- Case study: Eubenangee Swamp National Park
- Implications of Climate Change for Australia's National Reserve System: A Preliminary Assessment
- The implications of climate change for biodiversity conservation and the National Reserve System
- The Impacts and Management Implications of Climate Change for the Australian Government's Protected Areas
- Australia's Biodiversity and Climate Change
- Strategy for Australia's National Reserve System 2009-2030