Climate Change Strategy 2012-2017


Director of National Parks © Commonwealth of Australia 2012

Document background

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report concluded that human induced climate change is expected to have a discernable influence on many physical and biological systems. The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded over the course of the twenty-first century and approximately a quarter of all plant and animal species are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature continue to match current projections (IPCC 2007).

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park covers an area of 132,566 hectares within the Greater Sandy Desert bioregion of the Northern Territory. The park's landscape is dominated by the iconic massifs of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Uluru is 9.4 kilometres in circumference and rises about 340 metres above the surrounding plain. Kata Tjuta comprises 36 rock domes of varying size. One of the domes, rising about 500 metres above the plain (or 1,066 metres above sea level), is the highest feature in the park. These two geological features are striking examples of geological processes and erosion occurring over time.

The contrast of these monoliths with the surrounding sandplains creates a landscape of exceptional natural beauty of symbolic importance to both Anangu and non-Aboriginal cultures. The Uluru and Kata Tjuta massifs, rocky slopes and foothills contribute to the park's high biodiversity. The many other patterns and structures in the landscape reflect the region's evolutionary history and give important clues about limitations on natural resource use and management (Gillen et al. 2000).

The Greater Sandy Desert bioregion has less than five per cent of its total area within protected areas - the park is one of only five reserves and plays a significant role in contributing to long-term biodiversity conservation in the region. Within the bioregion, the park is representative of a broad landform structure that is a recurring pattern in arid Central Australia (Gillen et al. 2000).

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta landscape is a representative cross-section of Central Australian arid ecosystems. The main ecological zones in the park are:

  • puli - rock faces and vegetated hill slopes
  • puti - woodlands, particularly the mulga flats between sandhills
  • tali and pila - sand dunes and sandplains
  • karu - creek beds.

The park has a particularly rich and diverse suite of arid environment species, most of which are unique to Australia. The park supports populations of a number of relict and endemic species associated with the unique landforms and habitats of the monoliths. Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide runoff water which finds its way into moist gorges and drainage lines where isolated populations persist in an environment otherwise characterised by infertile and dry dunefields. In addition, exceptionally high species diversity is associated with the transitional sandplain that lies between the mulga outwash zone around the monoliths and the dunefields beyond.

Across the park's ecological zones 619 plant species have been recorded, among them seven rare or endangered species, which are generally restricted to the moist areas at the base of Uluru and the base of the domes of Kata Tjuta. The park's flora represents a large portion of plants found in Central Australia.

A total of 26 native mammal species, including several species of small marsupials and native rodents and bats, have been recorded in the park. These include the recently reintroduced mala. Reptile species are found in numbers unparalleled anywhere in the world and are well adapted to the arid environment; 74 species have been recorded to date, including a newly described species in 2006 (the western desert taipan, Oxyuranus temporalis). As well, 176 native bird species, four amphibian species and many invertebrate species have been recorded. An unusually diverse fauna assemblage occurs in an area extending north from Uluru to the west of Yulara town site and west to the Sedimentaries.

As a cultural landscape representing the combined works of nature and Anangu, the landscape of the park is in large part the outcome of millennia of management using traditional Anangu methods governed by Tjukurpa.

Anangu's knowledge of sustainable land use derives from a detailed body of ecological knowledge which includes a classification of ecological zones. This knowledge continues to contribute significantly to ecological research and management of the park. Anangu landscape management followed a traditional regime of fire management, and temporary water resources were husbanded by cleaning and protecting soaks and rockholes; Anangu landscape management methods are now integral to management of the park.

Aboriginal people have always been associated with Uluru. According to Anangu, the landscape was created by ancestral beings. Anangu are their direct descendants and are responsible for protecting and managing country. The knowledge to fulfil these responsibilities has been passed down from generation to generation through Tjukurpa. Looking after country in accordance with Tjukurpa is a prime responsibility shared by Parks Australia and Anangu within the framework of joint management.

It is this ongoing relationship with the land that led to the park being included on the World Heritage List for its cultural landscape values in 1994, the Commonwealth Heritage List in 2004 and the National Heritage List in 2007 (Director of National Parks 2000).

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Climate Change Strategy 2012-2017 identifies the preliminary adaptation, mitigation and communication strategies that park managers and key stakeholders will need to implement to manage the consequences of climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of the park. This strategy is consistent with the policies and actions of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Management Plan 2010-2020 and the objectives identified in the Parks Australia Climate Change Strategic Overview 2009-2014.

Climate change is a long term issue and this strategy is but an incremental 'first step' to what must be a far longer and enduring response. The strategy is an adaptive tool subject to ongoing review and management responses will be amended to take account of improvements in the understanding of the implications of climate change on the park.