Safe havens revealed for biodiversity in a changed climate

Jan 13, 2014
Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson

Researchers have found a way to project future habitat locations under climate change, identifying potential safe havens for threatened biodiversity.

Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson and Dr Gunnar Keppel from the Curtin University Institute for Biodiversity and Climate, along with lead researcher and former Curtin scientist Dr Tom Schut, now at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, developed an approach to identify potential refugia in declining rainfall environments.

For the first time, their novel approach, recently published in PLOS One and involving Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) instruments, is able to translate a traditional plot observation to the entire landscape.

Dr Wardell-Johnson said this enabled the team to apply expected future changes in rainfall to landscape-scale vegetation and find potential refugial sites, essential for conservation efforts.

"Global warming is a particular issue in Mediterranean- regions. It is especially so in the flat landscapes of south-western Australia – home to a global biodiversity hotspot," Dr Wardell-Johnson said.

"South-western Australians have been living through the impacts of a drying climate for more than 40 years and are bracing for a continuing drier and warmer trend.

"Understanding where refugia will be is of particular importance in light of human-caused , to offer the best chances for our precious flora and fauna in times of transformative change."

By using 4-metre x 4-metre plot-based data of vegetation profiles on and around granite outcrops across south-western Australia, the team were able to relate vegetation types to soil depth and rainfall. They found a very strong relationship between all three.

This finding meant the team could compare current climate and future climate under a continuing trend of reduced rainfall in the region.

Dr Wardell-Johnson said that very large shifts in vegetation structure were predicted and able to be mapped for future climates, with greatest changes expected to happen in the highest rainfall areas.

"We found it very likely that some refugia will be found in sites receiving greatest water run-off below granite outcrops, as well as areas where a reduction in is offset by deeper soil," Dr Wardell-Johnson said.

Explore further: Plant more native tress to increase rainfall in South West

More information: Rapid characterisation of vegetation structure to predict refugia and climate change impacts across a global biodiversity hotspot. www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0082778

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Streams need trees to withstand climate change

Feb 10, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- More than twenty years of biological monitoring have confirmed the importance of vegetation for protecting Australia's freshwater streams and rivers against the ravages of drought and climate ...

Hot spells threaten ringtail habitat

Sep 20, 2013

THE potential impacts of anthropogenic global warming on the western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentals) have been explored in a recent Edith Cowan University research paper.

Recommended for you

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

9 hours ago

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

9 hours ago

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Image: Grand Canyon geology lessons on view

15 hours ago

The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of ...

First radar vision for Copernicus

16 hours ago

Launched on 3 April, ESA's Sentinel-1A satellite has already delivered its first radar images of Earth. They offer a tantalising glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this new mission will provide ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...