As conservation scientists, the ultimate goal in our work is to contribute to onground conservation in some way; whether it be through improving the evidence base for the conservation decisions, bringing attention to poorly known issues, or finding the best way of tackling a conservation problem.
My first postdoc – fresh out of my PhD – was to generate predictions of the impact of climate change on Australia’s terrestrial vertebrate fauna. Through this process, I modelled the suitable climate space for ~1600 vertebrate species across Australia at different climate change scenarios at 10 year intervals to the end of the century. These models were used to identify climate “refugia” – areas predicted to be suitable for species even under the worst-case climate change scenario.
This work generated a lot of interest from Natural Resource Managment groups, researchers, and Government; as far afield as eastern Victoria, south-west Western Australia and across Queensland. Most prominently, a group from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) in Brisbane took these outputs and used them in their analysis to identify the areas of greatest climate change resilience. They incorporated other crucial factors such as areas that were already connected to protected areas (e.g. national parks or reserves), and where the areas were needed to boost connectivity of intact vegetation. Through this, EHP facilitated the acquisition of new properties into the National Reserve System – ensuring that key areas were prioritised for this acquisition. It has been a rewarding collaboration and we are continuing to work with EHP to find further ways to support their work. We highlighted the success of this collaboration in an article in The Conversation, published today.
“All of this came together here to provide an amazing result: a state-wide protected area system that is more resilient to future climate change than it was just 18 months ago.
This success story has opened the door for a new partnership between these researchers, facilitators and practitioners. In a time when Australian investment in both scientific enquiry and the public sector are constantly challenged, leveraging each other’s strengths may be the way forward for other projects if we hope to see science-based decision making in government.”