Biodiversity Node

Biodiversity Node

Biodiversity Node 

The Biodiversity Node

The Biodiversity Node (BioNode) is a collaboration between Macquarie University, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and other leading universities and experts in climate change impacts and adaptation science. Funded by OEH, the BioNode is one of three Nodes of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub.

The BioNode provides leadership and coordination of climate change adaptation research focused on species and ecosystem resilience to climate variability and change, which is critical to informing management practices and effective decision making. More than 40 individual researchers from 15 institutions, including CSIRO, OEH, Taronga Zoo, Western Sydney University and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, have collaborated on past and current research projects since 2013. The BioNode was awarded extra funding until 2018.

The research outputs are directly relevant and practical to end users, particularly for policy and operations within OEH, because the research is co-designed between policy-makers and research scientists from start to finish. To date, the BioNode has delivered guidelines for species translocation under climate change and interactive web tools for identifying current and future weed problems. It has also developed a suite of tools for the general public and state and local governments that show strategies for adapting to future climates.

Projects

The BioNode's research identifies refuges where species can survive extreme events and explores how integrated decision making on local land use can optimise outcomes for biodiversity.

Current projects

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.

Partners

Led by Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University), James Brazill-Boast, Tony Auld (OEH)

Contact

michelle.leishman@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Rachael Gallagher, Stuart Allen (Macquarie University) Tony Auld, Maurizio Rossetto (OEH)

Contact

rachael.gallagher@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Michelle Leishman (Macquarie University) and Paul Downey (University of Canberra)

Contact

michelle.leishman@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Linda Beaumont, Abigail Cabrelli, Belinda Medlyn and Brad Evans (Macquarie University)

Contact

linda.beaumont@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Belinda Medlyn (University of Western Sydney) and Linda Beaumont (Macquarie University)

Contact

belinda.medlyn@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Maurizio Rossetto (Royal Botanical Gardens and Domain Trust) and Linda Beaumont (Macquarie University)

Contact

maurizio.rossetto@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

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.

Partners

Led by Emilie Ens (Macquarie University), Kesha Wilson (TO, Ranger), Oliver Costello (Firesticks), Mal Ridges, Geoff Simpson (OEH)

Contact

emilie.ens@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Karrie Rose and Rebecca Spindler (Taronga Zoo)

Contact

krose@zoo.nsw.gov.au

Climate-ready revegetation

This project provides practical advice to natural resource managers to incorporate the uncertainties of climate change into revegetation planning. A publication synthesising the tools available to support decision-making regarding restoration activities, titled ‘Climate-ready revegetation: A guide for natural resource managers’, was developed and is being communicated to practitioners at workshops.

Partners

Led by Nola Hancock (Macquarie University), Rebecca Harris (University of Tasmania), Linda Broadhurst (CSIRO), Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council, Australian Network for Plant Conservation

Contact

nola.hancock@mq.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Melanie Bishop, Belinda Cook (Macquarie University), Bruce Coates (OEH)

Contact

melanie.bishop@mq.edu.au

Completed projects

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.

Partners

Led by Alex Bush (Macquarie University), Eren Turak (Office of Environment and Heritage) and Dean Gilligan (NSW Department of Primary Industries)

Contact

alexalbush@gmail.com

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.

Partners

Led by Veronica Doerr, Stuart Whitten, Michael Dunlop, Simon Ferrier, Kristen Williams and Russ Wise (CSIRO)

Contact

veronica.doerr@csiro.au

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.

Partners

Led by Tim Ralph, Kirstie Fryirs (Macquarie University), Tsuyoshi Kobayashi (OEH)

Contact

tim.ralph@mq.edu.au

Evalauting 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.

Partners

Led by Alana Grech, Victoria Graham, Linda Beaumont, John Baumgartner (Macquarie University), Murray Robinson (OEH)

Contact

alana.grech@jcu.edu.au

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.

Partners

Led by Rachael Gallagher, Nola Hancock and Lesley Hughes (Macquarie University), Linda Bell, James Brazill-Boast (OEH)

Outputs

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 Climate Futures website.)

Contact

rachael.gallagher@mq.edu.au

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.

  • Weed futures

    Access maps on weed threats under climate change for over 500 invasive NSW plant species.

  • Threatened species

    Search metrics on the vulnerability of NSW threatened species in response to climate change.

  • Niche finder

    Explore baseline maps of ecological ranges and access climate niche metrics of NSW plants.

  • Climate refugia

    UNDER CONSTRUCTION - Watch species' distributions move over time under different climate scenarios.

Photographic images courtesy of Remko Duursma and Lawrence Orel/OEH

Governance

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 Hughes

Professor Lesley Hughes

Director 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. She 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 Leishman

Deputy 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 Graham

Victoria Graham

Executive Officer of the Biodiversity Node

Victoria's role in the Node is to provide support to all members and manage the operations, communication and outreach activities. 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. Her research focuses on applying quantitative tools to analyse climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Biodiversity Node members

Researcher Organisation Research interests and expertise
Baumgartner, John Macquarie University Programming languages, ecology, zoology
Beaumont, Linda Macquarie University Species distribution modelling
Bishop, Melanie Macquarie University Impacts of climate change & disturbance on coastal and estuarine systems
Chang, MichaelMacquarie UniversityRemote sensing, geographic information systems, land monitoring
Doerr, Veronica CSIRO Behavioural ecology, landscape management & design
Downey, Paul University of Canberra Invasive plants
Ens, EmilieMacquarie UniversityCross-cultural ecology
Esperón-Rodríguez, ManuelMacquarie UniversityEcology, bioclimatology, ecophyisiology
Gallagher, Rachael Macquarie University Weed ecology, species distribution modelling
Graham, VictoriaMacquarie UniversityConservation planning, geographic information systems
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, KarrieTaronga ZooWildlife pathology and rehabilitation
Rossetto, Maurizio Royal Botanical Gardens Evolutionary & conservation genetics, restoration
Spindler, RebeccaTaronga ZooWildlife behaviour, reproduction and health
Tomkins, KerrieMacquarie UniversityGeomorphology, natural resource management
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