Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change

Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change

We identified ecosystems across Australia that have recently experienced catastrophic changes, including:

kelp forests shifting to seaweed turfs following a single marine heatwave in 2011;

the destruction of Gondwanan refugia by wildfire ignited by lightning storms in 2016;

dieback of floodplain forests along the Murray River following the millennial drought in 2001–2009;

large-scale conversion of alpine forest to shrubland due to repeated fires from 2003–2014;

community-level boom and bust in the arid zone following extreme rainfall in 2011–2012, and

mangrove dieback across a 1,000km stretch of the Gulf of Carpentaria after a weak monsoon in 2015-2016.

Of these six case studies, only the Murray River forest had previously experienced substantial human disturbance. The others have had negligible exposure to stressors, highlighting that undisturbed systems are not necessarily more resilient to climate change.

The case studies provide a range of examples of how presses and pulses can interact to push an ecosystem to a “tipping point”. In some cases, a single extreme event may be sufficient to cause an irreversible regime shift.

via The Conversation Ecosystems across Australia are collapsing under climate change