GOING for a bushwalk in the year 2070 will be an almost unrecognisable experience.
”It will look different, it will sound different, it will probably even smell different,” said Michael Dunlop, a senior CSIRO researcher, who helped produce the first comprehensive national report into the effects of climate change on biodiversity.
An increasing ”sameness” would characterise the landscape, as rainforest became dry forest, woodland became scrubland, and scrub bled into open grassland, Dr Dunlop said.
As a result, many of the ecological patterns that have become familiar would erode away, the report found.
Sophisticated climate and data measurement models were deployed to isolate 23 types of ecological environment around the continent, then track how they are likely to respond to rising temperatures. The models point to rapid change. By 2030, a transformation of many natural environments will be well under way, and by 2070, they will be obvious.
As well as experiencing higher temperatures, many habitats will be drier and prone to more frequent fires, said the report, The Implications of Climate Change for Biodiversity Conservation and the National Reserve System. Some animal and plant species might benefit from the changes, but the models predicted that by about 2070, the net effect on biodiversity would be a decidedly negative one.
The report said climate change was overlaid on existing environmental problems, such as encroaching development on wilderness areas and battles over water resources, and magnified their effects on stressed plants and animals. The researchers hope their study, which took three years to complete, will start a conversation about the meaning of ”conservation”.
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