Climate Change Adaptation

 

Regardless of any mitigation activities undertaken, adaptation is a crucial aspect of managing climate change. Adaptation refers to adjustments in natural and human systems to avoid and/or minimise the impacts of climate change. Two useful ways of thinking about adaptation are as:

  • risk management; and
  • reducing vulnerability and/or increasing resilience.

The risk management approach is likely to be more helpful at the strategic planning level, for example, ensuring that climate change adaptation is considered as part of management and decision-making processes. Specific resources have been developed to assist organisations to apply a risk management approach to climate change, including:

On the other hand, the reducing vulnerability approach is considered more helpful at regional and catchment scales.

Vulnerability is a product of the potential impact of climate change and the capacity to adapt to climate change:

Factors Determining Vulnerability (adapted from a European vulnerability assessment published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, cited in Campbell, A. 2008)

The level of exposure is determined by a combination of probability and  the magnitude of climate change, whilst sensitivity is a reflection of the system to respond to climate change. Together these two factors determine whether the potential impact is positive or negative. A systems’ adaptive capacity, is the ability for a system to cope with climate change as a result of being better prepared through autonomous or planned adaptation (Campbell, A. 2008).

Australia is characterised by a naturally highly variable climate, and as such, a relatively high capacity to adapt to such variability, however climate change will exacerbate this variability. Successfully adapting to climate change requires activities to be undertaken across various land tenures and industries, by a wide range of the community. Adaptation strategies may include:

  • Managing farms well and integrating sophisticated risk management strategies, in order to handle climate risk and maintain profitability.
  • Basing decision-making on the timing of rainfall events rather than the mean annual rainfall.
  • Anticipating extremes and proactively managing for these in a timely manner, along with building on opportunism and innovation.
  • Improved crop varieties, rotations, farm technology, farm practices, and land use mix.
  • For commercial forestry, choosing species based on growth rate, rather than survival rate.
  • Focusing on “no regrets” climate change responses, i.e. those with complementary biodiversity, soil health, or water benefits.
  • Alleviating existing pressures in the landscape, for example through improved: connectivity; land use planning; agricultural practices; management of invasive species, and; water quality and quantity – to build healthy landscapes that are more resilient to climate change.

Changes in temperature and rainfall as a result of climate change will mean that the local environment of many native species will be different. As a result, species will either need to adapt to these changes, move to an environment in which they are able to survive, or risk becoming extinct. Strategies that maintain large populations of native species and promote connection between areas of native vegetation on a landscape scale may assist native species to adapt to a changing climate (Doerr et al. 2013).  Some specific landscape design and management options include (Campbell, A. 2008):

  • Assisted dispersal of species.
  • Restoring vegetation cover in the landscape to improve connectivity and increase habitat.
  • Implementing biodiversity conservation outside of the formal reserve system, for example on private and leasehold lands.
  • Undertaking strategic revegetation projects in order to ensure they are location in the right parts of the landscape, and are configured correctly.
  • For environmental plantings, maximising genetic diversity within the species planted by sourcing plants/seeds from a wider provenance.
  • Plantings should be designed to minimise edge effects, i.e. with preference given to wider, non-linear configurations.
  • Translocation of species.
  • Captive breeding.
  • Migration corridors.
  • Using prevention strategies to reduce the risk of large fires.
  • Focusing on “no regrets” climate change responses, i.e. those with complementary biodiversity, soil health, or water benefits.
  • Alleviating existing pressures in the landscape, for example through improved: connectivity; land use planning; agricultural practices; management of invasive species, and; water quality and quantity – to build healthy landscapes that are more resilient to climate change.

Some of the current values and goals associated with biodiversity may not be possible or practical to maintain under an altered climate regime, and therefore a diverse and changing selection of innovative actions and approaches may be required in managing our biodiversity into the future (Prober, 2015).

  • Better use of storm water and recycled water, incentives for rainwater tanks.
  • Installation of desalination plants.
  • Aquifer recharge, and waterwise land use developments.
  • Using prevention strategies to reduce the risk of large fires.
  • Focusing on “no regrets” climate change responses, i.e. those with complementary biodiversity, soil health, or water benefits.
  • Alleviating existing pressures in the landscape, for example through improved: connectivity; land use planning; agricultural practices; management of invasive species, and; water quality and quantity – to build healthy landscapes that are more resilient to climate change.
  • Large scale revegetation can be important in combating increasing salinity, however must be carried out strategically in the landscape.

 

  • Planning measures, such as setback lines, planned retreat, dune management and building design.
  • Undertaking Coastal Hazard Risk Management Adaptation Planning (CHRMAP) with coastal communities.
  • Implementing policies, legislation and regulations, that address changes in the distribution and abundance of target species. Such policies should support ecosystem-based fisheries management, conservation and innovation, and be updated to reflect best available scientific information.
  • Responsive business practices and improved technology and scientific information can improve the adaptive capacity of the fishing industry.
  • Strategic programs aimed at restoring and/or protecting habitat, breeding grounds and refugia of fish and other marine species.
  • Citizen science programs (for example Redmap) to improve research outcomes.
  • Researching selective breeding to improve the resilience and resistance of aquaculture species.
  • Reducing non-climate stressors (such as run-off) will improve the capacity of marine systems to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

(NCCARF, 2012a)

  • Alleviating existing pressures in the landscape, for example through improved: connectivity; land use planning; agricultural practices; management of invasive species, and; water quality and quantity – to build healthy landscapes that are more resilient to climate change.
  • Using prevention strategies to reduce the risk of large fires.
  • Ensuring invasive species management incorporates monitoring for ‘sleeper’ species, that may become problematic as the climate changes.
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(Campbell, A. 2008)

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