An assessment of the vulnerability of Australian forests to the impacts of climate change: Synthesis. Contribution of Work Package 5 to the Forest Vulnerability Assessment

Author: Sarah Boulter
Year: 2012

Australias natural systems have a limited natural capacity to adapt to climate change, beyond which adaptation will be constrained by: rates of evolutionary change versus rates of climate change; contractions of suitable habitat; limited capacity to migrate (e.g. fragmentation of suitable habitat prevents dispersal); and extreme events that diminish a forests capacity to recover. The key outcomes of climate change on Australias forests are likely to be changes to the growth rates, species composition and distribution of Australias forests, and intensification of existing and new stress factors. For most regions, temperatures are predicted to warm and rainfall is likely to decrease. This report is a synthesis of the Forest Vulnerability Assessment project and the four resulting reports by Cockfield et al. (2010), Medlyn et al. (2010), Wilson and Turton (2010), and Woods et al. (2010). Forest management types were categorised into four types: conservation forests, native production forests, plantations and environmental plantings. The vulnerability analysis (exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity) highlighted those regions with the most vulnerable forests of each category. In general, the most vulnerable forests will be those with existing stresses, those with the highest exposure to extreme events, and existing plantations in long rotations and reserves with inadequate management. The assessment was carried out against a high emissions worst case A1FI emissions scenario that best represents current emission trends and is thus likely to provide the most realistic impact predictions and adaptation recommendations. Recommendations based on this assessment are that policy needs to create a vision of the future adapted forest, recognise the role of forests in mitigation, invest in decision-making tools and research, coordinate efforts at the national level, promote co-benefits of forests, audit impacts and respond when needed, understand and respond to community concerns, invest in targeted research, and agree to prioritise action.

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