Climate Change Research
With global climate models predicting changes in rainfall of anywhere between -11% and +5% by 2050 and changes in temperature ranging from 0.7C to 1.4C (DERM, 2009) it was difficult for anyone in the Condamine catchment to know what these numbers might really mean for them and their future.
Condamine Alliance believed it was essential to provide the community with regionally specific information on what might change regarding our already variable climate. The climate modeling capacity of the University of Southern Queensland led by the internationally renowned climate expert Roger Stone wascommissioned by Condamine Alliance to undertake a project to review the global models and provide regional scale predictions. This research, completed early in 2010 provided a much clearer picture of the likely future climate for the region with much tighter ranges that could be used to inform decision-making.
Analysing the Outcomes
The model results were then taken to a series of expert in the areas of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity and agricultural systems to assist the Condamine Alliance to better understand the implications of the model results in these key areas. These experts included staff from the Department of Environment and Resource Management, DEEDI’s Fisheries group, consultants, and retired or semi-retired local scientists who form part of the Condamine Emeritus Science Group. This breadth of expertise and the long timespan covered by their combined knowledge provided key insight into the likely consequences of the changes predicted by the models.
The three review panels each identified a wide range of opportunities and threats likely to arise from the predicted climate changes. Although each panel was run independently, there are core themes running through the findings of all three panels that provide a consistent message of the issues the catchment community and the catchment’s natural resources are likely to face.
Some of the key threats identified include:
- Rising threat from weed and pest invasion and diseases for all panel areas (aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity and agricultural systems)
- Agricultural land classifications will need reconsideration due to increased variability and decreased total rainfall exacerbating the difference between good cropping land and marginal land
- Rainfall trending towards a more summer dominant pattern is likely to increase the pressure of soil erosion due to changed cropping patterns, and to also put pressure on catchment native species and pastures that have developed to suit winter dominant rainfall patterns
- Significant changes are likely in the catchment’s aquatic systems as flows become less frequent and less regular, water temperatures become more extreme for longer periods, and riparian and aquatic species mixes and their associated food cycles will change.
- Temperate woodlands are likely to retreat and become more open, which will impact negatively on some native bird and ground dwelling species.
Some of the key opportunities identified include:
- Carbon emissions reduction through stubble management in cropping lands
- Historically, the catchment has seen extended periods of rainfall at the predicted reduced annual amounts and survived well. There is a lot to learn from agricultural systems management of the past that can lead to significant improvements when coupled with the increased technological support of modern times.
- Some current weed and pest species that are more adapted to temperate environments are likely to retreat (e.g. blackberry).
- Warmer winters will lead to less frost days and provide wider planting windows for some crop and pasture species.
The Condamine Alliance is currently planning processes for taking these implications further to identify locally specific issues and opportunities with key stakeholder groups in the catchment.
Department of Environment and Resource Management (2009), ClimateQ: toward a greener Queensland, Queensland’s climate change strategy, Queensland Government, Brisbane.