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Major changes needed to protect Australia's species and ecosystems
Date:9/19/2012

A study has highlighted the sensitivity of Australia's species and ecosystems to climate change, and the need for new ways of thinking about biodiversity conservation.

'Climate change is likely to start to transform some of Australia's natural landscapes by 2030,' lead researcher, CSIRO's Dr Michael Dunlop said. 'By 2070, the ecological impacts are likely to be very significant and widespread. Many of the environments our plants and animals currently exist in will disappear from the continent. Our grandchildren are likely to experience landscapes that are very different to the ones we have known,' he said.

Dr Dunlop said climate change will magnify existing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat clearing, water extraction and invasive species. Future climate-driven changes in other sectors, such as agriculture, water supply and electricity supply, could add yet more pressure on species and ecosystems.

'These other threats have reduced the ability of native species and ecosystems to cope with the impacts of climate change,' Dr Dunlop said.

One of the challenges for policy and management will be accommodating changing ecosystems and shifting species.

The study suggests the Australian community and scientists need to start a rethink of what it means to conserve biodiversity, as managing threatened species and stopping ecological change becomes increasingly difficult.

'We need to give biodiversity the greatest opportunity to adapt naturally in a changing and variable environment rather than trying to prevent ecological change,' Dr Dunlop said.

The study highlights the need to start focussing more on maintaining the health of ecosystems as they change in response to climate change, from one type of ecosystem to another.

'This could need new expectations from the community, possibly new directions in conservation policy, and new science to guide management,' Dr Dunlop said.

'To be eff
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Contact: Josie Banens
Josie.Banens@csiro.au
61-262-464-422
CSIRO Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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