The Biodiversity Node
The NSW Adaptation Research Hub was established in 2013 by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to support research that directly informs NSW agencies climate adaptation policies. Hosted by Macquarie University, the Biodiversity Node provides leadership and coordination of state-wide research focused on increasing our knowledge of the capacity of species and ecosystems to adapt to climate change.
The hub consists of two other nodes:
- Adaptive Communities led by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology
- Coastal Processes and Responses led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)
The Biodiversity Node has supported 16 research projects since 2013, in collaboration with leading researchers from nine partner institutions, including CSIRO, Taronga Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. All projects are co-developed by academic researchers and OEH scientists to ensure the outputs are policy-relevant and provide the basis for conservation planning under climate change.
To date, the Biodiversity Node has delivered guidelines for species translocation under climate change and developed a suite of publicly-available tools that provide access to information on the possible impacts of climate change on biodiversity. The Biodiversity Node was awarded extra funding until 2018.
Climate change poses a major threat to the biodiversity of New South Wales. Increasing temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme events are projected to affect population sizes, species ranges, the timing of life cycles, the structure and composition of ecological communities and extinction risk.
The Biodiversity Node research identifies refuges where species can survive extreme events and explores the vulnerability and resilience of species to climate change, to support decision-making for optimal conservation outcomes.
Assessing the vulnerability of endangered species and ecosystems to climate change in NSW
This project assesses the vulnerability of threatened species and ecological communities to climate change. Species listed as threatened under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSC) 1995 are assessed and future habitat suitability is identified from Species Distribution Models (SDMs). A searchable web-based tool called NSW Threatened Species allows users to view maps of species’ distributions and identify threats to their survival, including climate change. The tool supports biodiversity management programs, such as Saving our Species conservation projects and can inform reserve acquisition guidelines, targeting of species for Australian PlantBank collections and adaptation priorities.
Led by Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University), James Brazill-Boast, Tony Auld (OEH)
Delivering ecological range metrics for the entire NSW flora
Basic metrics of plant ecological range are routinely used to assess the vulnerability of species to human-induced impacts, particularly climate change. However, we currently lack this type of baseline ecological data for the NSW flora. This project examines the range, climate niche breadth and the diversity of soil types occupied by each species in the NSW flora. The metrics are available online at NSW Niche Finder where users can explore baseline maps of ecological ranges and access climate niche metrics of NSW plants.
Led by Rachael Gallagher, Stuart Allen (Macquarie University) Tony Auld (OEH), Maurizio Rossetto (Royal Botanical Gardens and Domain Trust)
Risk assessment and website development for exotic plants under future climates
This project will extend the coverage of the Species Distribution Models available through Weed Futures, an online decision support tool enabling users to access risk assessments for over 500 weed species, by including new Weeds of National Significance. To complement this, a spectral library will be built to monitor the distribution of weeds in alpine vegetation communities using remote sensing. The research outputs have contributed substantially to the capacity of natural resource managers to assess weed risk and prioritise exotic species for monitoring and management.
Led by Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University) and Paul Downey (University of Canberra)
Where to run or hide: Identifying likely climate refugia and corridors to support species range shifts
This project aims to identify climate refugia and assess the potential for species to shift their distributions to track moving climate zones by considering barriers to movements, current land use patterns, landscape connectivity and health, connectivity with existing protected areas and species-specific list history traits. Maps will be available on the refugia website (in development), along with functions to search for species and generate reports for different regions.
Led by Linda Beaumont, John Baumgartner, Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez (Macquarie University), James Brazill-Boast (OEH) and Michael Drielsma (OEH)
Identifying regions of high drought-mortality risk for tree species in NSW
Severe drought can cause large-scale forest death, transforming landscapes and thus having potentially catastrophic consequences for biodiversity. This project aims to promote conservation planning for key tree species under a range of future climate change scenarios by quantifying the risk of drought mortality across New South Wales.
The project is a collaboration by Macquarie University, the University of Western Sydney and OEH, and has been awarded Australian Research Council funding.
Led by Belinda Medlyn (University of Western Sydney) and Linda Beaumont (Macquarie University)
Horizon scanning for potential future pests and pathogens in NSW
The exclusion, or early detection and eradication, of exotic pests and pathogens is consistently shown to be more cost-effective than efforts to manage or contain invasive species once established. This project will collate global data on the likelihood of potential pests and pathogens becoming invasive in NSW and will assess their impact on biodiversity. Horizon scanning and risk analysis are undertaken under current and future climatic conditions to identify high priority species for the development of targeted management plans.
Led by Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University) and Mark Burgman (University of Melbourne)
Bioclimatic discordance: Combining molecular and environmental data to identify floristic refugia and corridors
The analysis of molecular data can distinguish between areas that have previously served as population refugia and differentiate them from expansion areas. By combining data from select species of rainforest trees, this project is identifying the landscape features and areas that have operated as refugia during temporal climatic fluctuations which can inform predictions of where future floristic refugia may occur.
Led by Maurizio Rossetto (Royal Botanical Gardens and Domain Trust) and Linda Beaumont (Macquarie University)
Assessing distribution and potential shifts in phenology of culturally significant plant species in response to climate change in the Minyumai Indigenous Protected Area
Using cross-cultural knowledge and approaches, this project will assess the impacts of climate change on the Minyumai Indigenous Protected Area (MIPA) and develop adaptive strategies to support persistence of culturally significant species. The MIPA forms a crucial wildlife corridor of more than 20,000 hectares of coastal forest on the NSW north coast. This project is jointly run by Macquarie University, Traditional Owners (TO) and park rangers of the MIPA.
Led by Emilie Ens (Macquarie University), Oliver Costello (Firesticks), Mal Ridges and Geoff Simpson (OEH)
Wildlife disease surveillance
Patterns have been observed between climate cycles, including El Niño events, and outbreaks of wildlife diseases that use insects as vectors (arboviruses). This project will examine the relationship between climate and arboviruses using field data and use the models developed to identify areas of likely disease emergence (hot spots) and assess the risk of disease outbreaks to wildlife.
Led by Karrie Rose and Hannah Bender (Taronga Zoo)
This project provides practical advice to natural resource managers to incorporate the uncertainties of climate change into revegetation planning. A publication titled ‘Climate-ready revegetation: A guide for natural resource managers’ was developed that synthesises the tools available to support decision-making regarding restoration activities, and is being communicated to practitioners at workshops. Updates to the Guide.
Led by Nola Hancock (Macquarie University)
How does the design and position of seawalls influence the resilience of sandy beach ecosystems to seal level rise?
This project explores how the design and positioning of seawalls influences the capacity of sandy beach ecosystems to adapt to sea-level rise. Guidelines are urgently needed for the construction and design of structures that not only protect coastal properties but also conserve ecological values of the sandy beach environment. This is a cross-node project of the coastal and biodiversity nodes.
Led by Melanie Bishop, Belinda Cook (Macquarie University) and Bruce Coates (OEH)
Predicted effects of climate change on freshwater biodiversity
Freshwater species are potentially highly susceptible to the effects of climate change, especially with the increased difficulties they are experiencing in dispersing between catchments. Information on the distribution of freshwater species will support the latest Implementation Plans for Biodiversity and Climate Change knowledge themes. This project established a baseline dataset covering the distribution of freshwater species in NSW across a wide range of taxonomic groups. Projections of future distributions under climate change identified key vulnerable groups.
Led by Alex Bush (Macquarie University), Eren Turak (OEH) and Dean Gilligan (NSW Department of Primary Industries)
How does an adaptation lens change the way we invest in landscapes for biodiversity?
Considering the ways in which landscapes are likely to change through time may change what outcomes are feasible to achieve, along with the mix, timing and location of activities that are targeted for investment. This project analysed the ability of existing decision processes to incorporate dynamic changes to threats and explored options to incorporate climate adaptation into future decision-making.
Led by Veronica Doerr, Stuart Whitten and Michael Dunlop (CSIRO)
Water regime thresholds, aquatic metabolism and microbial diversity in floodplain wetlands
This project investigated water regime thresholds, aquatic metabolism and microbial biodiversity in the Macquarie Marshes, a high conservation value aquatic ecosystem. Understanding the role of flooding and the relationships between aquatic metabolism and microbial diversity is critical for ecosystem and water management in light of predicted changes to climate and hydrology in NSW and the Murray-Darling Basin in eastern Australia.
Led by Tim Ralph, Kirstie Fryirs (Macquarie University) and Tsuyoshi Kobayashi (OEH)
Evaluating the status of the NSW terrestrial reserve system under a changing climate
Climate change jeopardises the capacity of the reserve system to maintain its CAR principles because it drives change in species ranges. This project evaluated the status and impact of a changing climate on the comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness (CAR) of the NSW terrestrial reserve system and identified priority areas for future reservation under climate change.
Led by Alana Grech, Victoria Graham, Linda Beaumont, John Baumgartner (Macquarie University), Murray Robinson (OEH)
Best practice translocation guidelines for climate-change adaptation in NSW
The rapid pace of climate change is expected to increase the risks to species because many habitats will become increasingly unsuitable, and rates of migration to new habitats may be too slow and individuals may face insurmountable barriers. Translocation to new areas may be necessary to prevent either local or global extinction. The aim of this project was to provide a comprehensive overview of assisted colonisation for climate-change adaptation, along with advice on effectively translocating those species in NSW that might suffer population declines.
Led by Rachael Gallagher, Nola Hancock and Lesley Hughes (Macquarie University), Linda Bell, James Brazill-Boast (OEH)
This project has released two reports:
Assisted Colonisation as a Climate Change Adaptation Tool [PDF MB] by R V Gallagher, N Hancock, R O Makinson and T Hogbin; and
Monitoring and Prioritisation of Flora Translocations: A Survey of Opinions from Practitioners and Researchers [PDF MB] by N Hancock, R V Gallagher and R O Makinson
In September 2014, a masterclass was held to present the findings of this research. (Slides are available on the Centre for Green Cities website.)
- Appendix 1 Compilation of established flora translocations in Australia
- Appendix 2 Global case studies of experimental assisted colonisations
- Appendix 3 Reviews of flora translocations
- Appendix 4 Reviews of fauna translocations
Biodiversity and climate change online tools
The Biodiversity Node of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub has developed a suite of web tools for users to access information on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. These tools support the NSW state government and local governments in adaptation planning and impact assessments.
Access maps on weed threats under climate change for over 500 invasive NSW plant species.
Search metrics on the vulnerability of NSW threatened species in response to climate change.
Explore baseline maps of ecological ranges and access climate niche metrics of NSW plants.
Follow step-by-step instructions on best-practice revegetation under climate change.
Photographic images courtesy of Nick Cubbin/OEH, Lawrence Orel/OEH and Remko Duursma/Western Sydney University
Members of the Biodiversity Node include internationally and nationally recognised leaders in the fields of climate change impacts and adaptation, with proven track records in research in the natural and social sciences. Members are united by the common goal of understanding the current and potential impacts of climate change and the adaptive responses required to reduce risk and vulnerability of biodiversity.
Professor Lesley HughesDirector of the Biodiversity Node
Professor Lesley Hughes is an expert on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. She is a member of the Climate Commission and is the Australian Representative on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Lesley is also a lead author for the UN’s IPCC Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports, and a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and Climate Scientists Australia.
Professor Michelle LeishmanDeputy Director of the Biodiversity Node
Associate Professor Michelle Leishman works with plant functional traits and ecological strategies of plants to understand the success of invasive plants, predicting the success of invasive plants with climate change and developing sustainable vegetation restoration methods.
Victoria GrahamExecutive Officer of the Biodiversity Node
Victoria's role in the Node is to provide support to all members and facilitate strong communication channels between research scientists and end-users. She has a keen interest in science communication and researcher engagement and is a member of the Australian Science Communicators and the Society for Conservation Biology. Victoria's research focuses on applying quantitative tools to problems in conservation planning.
Biodiversity Node members
|Researcher||Organisation||Research interests and expertise|
|Allen, Stuart||Macquarie University||Web development, programming, data management|
|Baumgartner, John||Macquarie University||Programming languages, ecology, zoology|
|Beaumont, Linda||Macquarie University||Species distribution modelling|
|Bender, Hannah||Taronga Zoo||Wildlife pathology, diagnostics|
|Bishop, Melanie||Macquarie University||Impacts of climate change & disturbance on coastal and estuarine systems|
|Chang, Michael||Macquarie University||Remote sensing, geographic information systems, land monitoring|
|Doerr, Veronica||CSIRO||Behavioural ecology, landscape management & design|
|Downey, Paul||University of Canberra||Invasive plants|
|Ens, Emilie||Macquarie University||Cross-cultural ecology|
|Esperón-Rodríguez, Manuel||Macquarie University||Ecology, bioclimatology, ecophyisiology|
|Gallagher, Rachael||Macquarie University||Weed ecology, species distribution modelling|
|Graham, Victoria||Macquarie University||Conservation planning, geographic information systems|
|Grech, Alana||James Cook University||Spatial information science, conservation planning|
|Hancock, Nola||Macquarie University||Ecological restoration practices, biodiversity conservation|
|Hughes, Lesley||Macquarie University||Climate change ecology, species distribution modelling, conservation policy|
|Leishman, Michelle||Macquarie University||Invasive species, vegetation response to extreme events, restoration|
|Medlyn, Belinda||Western Sydney University||Climate change impacts on forests, carbon cycling, impacts of elevated CO2|
|Ralph, Tim||Macquarie University||Geomorphology, freshwater ecosystem science|
|Rose, Karrie||Taronga Zoo||Wildlife pathology and rehabilitation|
|Rossetto, Maurizio||Royal Botanical Gardens||Evolutionary & conservation genetics, restoration|
|Spindler, Rebecca||Taronga Zoo||Wildlife behaviour, reproduction and health|
|Tomkins, Kerrie||Macquarie University||Geomorphology, natural resource management|