What’s Being Done

Vulnerabilities and Management Responses

There are a number of activities being undertaken at State and local level to reduce the vulnerability of communities and natural assets to climate change now and into the future. These are outlined below.

DAFWA’s 2016 Bulletin 4870, Climate change: impacts and adaptation for agriculture in Western Australia identifies the following vulnerabilities and responses:

Historically, WA producers have demonstrated innovation and resilience in response to climate variability. Continued warmer, drier and more variable conditions, combined with other non-climate related factors (population changes, economic pressures, etc.) will present an increasing range of interacting challenges that producers will need to adapt to. Anticipated changes are predicted to include: crop and pasture productivity, quality, nutrient cycling, pest and disease activity, livestock production and reproductive rates (Sudmeyer et al, 2016). Changes in the timing of rainfall may be a greater consideration than decline in rainfall. Increasing CO2 concentrations can lead to improved plant water-use efficiency, which may be beneficial in some circumstances.

Management Response:

 

Technological and scientific advancements

Agronomic and technological advancements, along with the use of cultivars have been used to improve water-use efficiency in broadacre crops, in order to counteract reductions in rainfall.

There is likely to be a major issue with water supply, with both on and off-farm sources being affected by changes in the frequency and duration of runoff events. Decreases in average annual streamflow into water catchment reservoirs (over the years from 1975-2001, compared with 1911-1974) means there could be less water available for agricultural use as more water is diverted to for public drinking supplies. Farm dam catchments are also likely to be affected.
Management Response:
Revised Water Allocation Plans

The Department of Environment and Water Corporation have accelerated investigations into new water supply sources. They have also developed programs to encourage more efficient use of existing supplies of water.

Changes in cyclone intensity and frequency, along with sea level rise, could cause periodic and chronic shoreline retreat, with significant long-term implications for coastal ecosystems, communities and infrastructure. The low-lying Houtman Abrolhos Islands, coastal estuaries and wetlands could be particularly vulnerable. Reductions and/or restrictions in fisheries and output, along with increased insurance premiums could have negative implications for local and regional communities and economies (Pittock 2003).
Management Response:
Inland Aquaculture

Due to potentially adverse conditions developing in the marine environment as a result of climate change, it is possible that aquaculture ventures may be relocated to the mainland where conditions can be greater controlled. There is some potential for aquaculture ponds using saline groundwater, including finfish, algae and brine shrimp. Freshwater species such as yabbies, marron and silver perch have also been successfully produced commercially (Kingwell 2003; Agricultural Western Australia 2000).

Coastal Adaptation and Protection

The Department of Transport (DoT) implemented Coastal Adaptation and Protection (CAP) Grants in response to calls for assistance with coastal management. Grants are available annually to support partnerships between the State Government and local coastal managers undertake projects associated with identifying and adapting to coastal hazards. CAP grants are available for monitoring, adaptation planning, asset management, adaptation and maintenance projects, with the aim of ensuring coastal managers understand and adapt sustainably to coastal hazards for the public benefit. More information is available on the DoT CAP Grants webpage.

A number of coastal LGAs within the NAR are undertaking Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Planning with the community, including the Shire of Irwin, The Shires of Gingin and Dandaragan, and the City of Greater Geraldton

Patches of remnant vegetation and in situ biodiversity face an uncertain future, with the possibility of extinction of many species that have a restricted range. Recent studies on the potential change in distribution of some native plant species under climate change scenarios have shown the sensitivity of those species that have either a restricted natural range, or that are confined to remnants and reserves.
Management Response:
Biodiversity Corridors

Strategic revegetation can help form connections across the landscape that link up areas of habitat and allow for the migration of species and therefore improved resilience. The Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor is Australia’s largest revegetation project based on carbon capture and biodiversity. The project is being undertaken in the NAR by Carbon Neutral. More information is available on the Carbon Neutral website http://carbonneutral.com.au/yarra-yarra-biodiversity-corridor/.

Broader Provenance

Climate change may result in the natural range of a species being altered, and therefore a change of thinking may be required in regards to the level of change in species composition that will be acceptable to the community in the future and focusing on ecosystem function rather than maintenance of individual species in specific locations. The idea of using ‘provenance’ in regards to species may need to be broadened from local to regional (or even cross-regional).

The climate projections outlined in the previous section clearly have major implications for all natural resources in Western Australia – particularly in relation to seasonal variability. Rainfall changes are of particular concern. For example, in relation to broad-acre agriculture, possible impacts on winter crops include a later start to the growing season, a shorter growing season, increased variability in yields, and lower wheat protein – with the lower rainfall zones particularly vulnerable to inadequate rainfall.
The Department of Fisheries is leading an effort to prevent aquatic pests arriving and establishing themselves in our waters with a multi-million dollar aquatic biosecurity program using cutting edge technology, and ground-breaking management and compliance strategies.

The Aquatic Biosecurity Charter has been established to promote the protection of Western Australia’s oceans and rivers from aquatic pest species. The charter is aimed at all members of the community from industry and community interest groups to individuals. Anyone with an interest in protecting marine and freshwater ecosystems can sign up and agree “to work with the Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, to protect the State’s aquatic environment from pests and diseases”.

State Planning Policy 2.6 Coastal Planning Policy (2013) describes the guiding principles under which development within the coastal zone should occur, providing a framework for integrated coastal zone management in Western Australia. The policy requires development proposals to be considered in the context of coastal hazard risk management and adaption planning undertaken by the responsible authority or proponent of the development. The policy is accompanied by guidelines that outline the recommended process for such planning

To help local governments, NRM and community groups tackle coastal issues, the Department of Planning (DoP) provides assistance through the Coastal Management Plan Assistance Program and Coastwest Program, while the Department of Transport funds the Climate Adaptation and Protection grants program.

Various coastal management practitioners, particularly local/state government agencies, NACC and community groups, either undertake directly or provide funding for coastal projects aimed at improving coastal environments.

A full list of all the coastal plans for the NAR can be found on the Planning WA website for both the Mid West and the Wheatbelt planning regions.

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