20 March 2019
The high elevation forests of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area (Gondwana Rainforests WHA) receive around half of their annual water requirement from clouds and fog. Shifts in the cloud base in a changing climate have important management implications for these regions.
Hub researchers and knowledge brokers have been working with Gondwana Rainforests WHA managers of the to identify existing climate change information that can be used to shed light on the shift as well as information gaps that Hub researchers can help to fill.
A window to the past
The Gondwana Rainforests WHA is one of 19 listed World Heritage properties in Australia. Unlike many World Heritage properties that are a single site, Gondwana Rainforests WHA is a collection of 40 separate reserves extending from north-east New South Wales into south-east Queensland.
The reserves cover more than 366,00 hectares and comprise warm temperate, cool temperate, subtropical and dry rainforests similar to those that covered the ancient supercontinent Gondwana. The rainforests are biodiversity hot-spots and are home to many rare and threatened plants and animals.
Climate change vulnerabilities
Climate projections for the region of the Gondwana Rainforests WHA (see the East Coast cluster at Climate Change in Australia) include:
- increased average temperatures and hotter, longer and more frequent warm spells and hot days
- changes in average rainfall and more severe extreme rainfall events
- higher surface radiation (that is, decreased cloud cover)
- decreased relative humidity
- higher evapotranspiration.
Changes in temperature and rainfall are likely to directly affect already restricted cool, moist habitats. Changes in fire regimes and storms, coupled with other impacts such as changes in competition from pest species, are likely to further impact these habitats and that plants and animals that live there.
Managing for the future
The Hub participated in an expert workshop in October last year that brought together experts from key agencies to discuss available climate change projections and to identify specific data needs for ongoing climate change adaptation planning for the Gondwana Rainforests WHA. At this meeting the importance of understanding the impact of climate change on the cloud base – and current lack of information to help do so – was a key topic.
Subsequent discussions with Gondwana Rainforests WHA managers about information needs and what climate change information our researchers can deliver has resulted in a Hub case study to to assess the impact of climate change on cloud cover in the region covered by the Border Ranges Rainforest Biodiversity Management Plan. The case study will be carried out in 2019–20.