World-first Report Card calculates climate change
2 December 2009
Dr William Figueira, from the School of Biological Sciences, has helped to produce the first Australian benchmark of climate-change impacts on marine ecosystems.
The Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia, launched on Friday 27 November at the Queensland Maritime Museum, provides a biennial guide for scientists, government and the community on observed and projected impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.
Dr Figueira is one of over 70 scientists from more than 35 universities and organisations invited to contribute to the Report Card, which summarises knowledge on climate change impacts over the past decade, predicts what will happen by the end of this century, and offers adaptation responses that can also inform policy makers. This information is compiled on numerous categories under the broad topics of marine climate and marine biodiversity.
"The report card represents a major undertaking by scientists which seeks to clarify the effects of climate change to Australia's oceans and provide a road map for future science in this area," Dr Figueira says.
Along with a team of scientists led by Professor David Booth, from the University of Technology Sydney, Dr Figueira produced an assessment of the likely impact of climate change on Australia's temperate coastal and demersal fish populations. This information came from primary literature and research conducted by members of the team.
"Our findings on the report card show that fish from south-eastern waters are expanding their range southwards into cooler water," says Dr Figueira.
"For example, we are seeing new species arriving from the north into Tasmanian coastal waters. This movement is linked to warming temperatures and a strengthening of the East Australian Current."
According to Dr Figueira's team, stressors such as overfishing and habitat disturbance are likely to exacerbate impacts of climate change for temperate fish. Their report recommends reducing overfishing and maintaining, restoring and protecting essential fish habitats such as seagrass beds, salt marshes, coral reefs, mangroves and macrolagal beds.
Key concerns from the Report Card include: waters around Australia becoming warmer and more acidic, increases in strengths of major warm-water currents such as the East Australian Current which is predicted to strengthen 20 per cent by 2100, changes in the productivity of marine ecosystems and shifts in the distribution and abundance of species. The Report Card identifies where change is already occurring, likely trends and confidence levels in those trends depending on the state of knowledge.
The Director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), Professor Jean Palutikof, says the Report Card reflects both the increased bank of knowledge about impacts, and the responses of government, industry and the community.
"Australia needs a guide to likely changes in the marine environment and we feel well-positioned now to bring together the science and the latest climate projections to consider options for adaptation," Professor Palutikof says.
Funded by the Australian Climate Change Science Program, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, and CSIRO's Climate Adaptation Flagship, the project is an early outcome of a broader national response to climate change being conducted through the NCCARF.
Learn more about the Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card at: www.oceanclimatechange.org.au/content/index.php/site/welcome/
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997