07 3286 7788

BAAM ecological consultant is lead author in key climate change study

BAAM ecological consultant and senior botanist, Lui Weber, is the lead author in a newly published study of subtropical plants and their responses to the impacts of historical climatic fluctuations. The study examines the effects of past climatic fluctuations on the vegetation of subtropical eastern Australia during the last 120,000 years in order to understand future responses of rainforests to climate change. This is one of the first studies to focus attention on subtropical rather than the more famous tropical forests by identifying areas in the subtropics that have functioned as refugia in a gradually drying continent. Multiple refugia, separated by dry barriers, were identified using more than 25,000 records of 179 endemic rainforest plants and correlating these with other features such as patch size, current rainfall and past habitat stability. The main conclusions of the study were that five areas (including the border ranges) retained more suitable habitat over the last 120,000 years allowing retreating rainforest plants to survive and favouring evolution of new species. The current signature of these refugia is high concentrations of endemic flora and fauna.  The largest seeded plants also retreated to these areas but were unable to expand due to the extinction of the largest animals such as Cassowaries. Volcanic activity also played a key role over the last 25 million years in the creation of these wetter and more fertile refugia in an infertile and drying continent. This study provides evidence that even though natural climate change has had dramatic effects on Australian landscapes, especially the previously widespread rainforests, some refugial areas retained relatively stable habitats.  Conservation measures for species and ecosystems need to be discussed in an apolitical atmosphere in order to implement mitigation measures such as conserving areas that are most likely to retain suitable habitat under human induced climate change. To find out more follow the link below: