Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Did anyone notice the end of the world?
Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change
July 5, 2018 6.09am AEST
To the chagrin of the tourist industry, the Great Barrier Reef has become a notorious victim of climate change. But it is not the only Australian ecosystem on the brink of collapse.
Our research, recently published in Nature Climate Change, describes a series of sudden and catastrophic ecosystem shifts that have occurred recently across Australia.
These changes, caused by the combined stress of gradual climate change and extreme weather events, are overwhelming ecosystems’ natural resilience.
Once an ecosystem goes into steep decline – with key species dying out and crucial interactions no longer possible – there are important consequences.
Targeted interventions, like the assisted recolonisation of plants and animals, reseeding an area that’s suffered forest loss, and actively protecting vulnerable ecosystems from destructive bushfires, may prevent a system from collapsing, but at considerable financial cost. And as the interval between extreme events shorten, the chance of a successful intervention falls.
The abstract of the study;
Biological responses to the press and pulse of climate trends and extreme events
R. M. B. Harris, L. J. Beaumont, T. R. Vance, C. R. Tozer, T. A. Remenyi, S. E. Perkins-Kirkpatrick, P. J. Mitchell, A. B. Nicotra, S. McGregor, N. R. Andrew, M. Letnic, M. R. Kearney, T. Wernberg, L. B. Hutley, L. E. Chambers, M.-S. Fletcher, M. R. Keatley, C. A. Woodward, G. Williamson, N. C. Duke and D. M. J. S. Bowman
The interaction of gradual climate trends and extreme weather events since the turn of the century has triggered complex and, in some cases, catastrophic ecological responses around the world. We illustrate this using Australian examples within a press–pulse framework. Despite the Australian biota being adapted to high natural climate variability, recent combinations of climatic presses and pulses have led to population collapses, loss of relictual communities and shifts into novel ecosystems. These changes have been sudden and unpredictable, and may represent permanent transitions to new ecosystem states with-out adaptive management interventions. The press–pulse framework helps illuminate biological responses to climate change, grounds debate about suitable management interventions and highlights possible consequences of (non-) intervention.
Read more (paywalled): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0187-9.epdf
Somehow I doubt things are quite as bad as the researchers claim. Thanks to the courage of Peter Ridd we have all seen what happens to researchers in Australian academia who criticise extreme climate claims.