Vegetation and Biodiversity
What are the risk factors affecting the function of Vegetation and Biodiversity?
What effect will climate change have on the function of Vegetation and Biodiversity?
Change in climate patterns, notably an increase in regional temperatures, has significantly impacted upon global biodiversity. This change is primarily accredited to an increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels (particularly coal) in conjunction with deforestation (Miller and Spoolman 2012).
Observed changes due to climate change include rising sea levels, altered species population and distribution, disruption to timing of reproduction and migration events, as well as increased pest and disease outbreaks. It is anticipated that by the end of the 21st century, climate change may be the dominant direct driver of loss of biodiversity globally (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005)
Low’s (2011) report on Queensland’s Biodiversity identified the following climate is likely for the region:
- temperatures projected to increase by 3.2oC by 2070, with increases of 4.5oC considered possible for both the Brigalow Belt and New England Tableland, and the highest rises in the west and a subsequent increase in the fire risk,
- estimated rainfall decreases of 9-10% but larger decreases or even an increase is possible in the Brigalow Belt, and in the New England Tableland the best estimate is for a 9% decrease but again, there’s a chance of a 32% decrease to a 16% increase.
With regard to biodiversity, Low (2011), indicates that average mean temperatures within the Brigalow Belt are currently expected increase on a south-north gradient, but maximum summer temperatures increase on an east-west gradient, and rainfall decreases on an east-west gradient.
“This means that species vulnerable to low water availability or summer heatwaves will be most vulnerable in the west of their ranges. Species limited by high mean temperatures will be most vulnerable in the north of their ranges, subject to the moderating influences of elevation and aspect. Species with extremely small ranges may be vulnerable throughout their ranges.” (Low 2011)
The key challenges to be addressed if the regions’ biodiversity is to be maintained and increased include:
- loss of species genetic diversity,
- contraction of species distributions,
- loss of habitat,
- continuing degradation and loss of ecosystems,
- increased vulnerability of species and ecosystems to external changes,
- inconsistent data collection and management,
- unsustainable natural resource utilisation,
- a need for better coordination and communication between projects and stakeholders,
- limited success in engaging landholders on nature conservation,
- ongoing protected area management (through voluntary measures and other) and future acquisitions of representative habitats,
- a lack of recognition of past achievements and promotion of the importance of successful conservation outcomes,
- loss of riparian vegetation,
- loss of ecosystem connectivity, and
- loss of habitat complexity.