Conservation and climate change

Trust for Nature is concerned about the impact climate change is having on Victoria’s environment. Trust for Nature is joining with others to address this challenge.

Sunset at Neds Corner Station
Photo: Shannon Reddaway

Trust for Nature is concerned about the impact climate change is having on Victoria’s environment.

Hotter, drier seasons with associated increases in fire intensity, reduced rainfall and a decline in replenishment of wetlands are part of a trend that threatens ecosystems and native species in our state.

These changes impact animal and plant populations by reducing food, suitable habitat and water availability – all of which have been shown to lead to reduced breeding success, increased mortality and shifts in distribution, flowering times or migratory patterns.

Climate change is also triggering fundamental evolutionary changes in species, including decreases in body size and changes in colour.

According to a 2008 study on the implications of climate change for Australia’s National Reserve System, the species composition of plants in vegetation communities may change by more than 50% by 2070. Shifts in composition are predicted to occur at a scale of hundreds of kilometres between current and projected distribution of species.

The study also predicts that climate change will worsen habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species and extreme floods and droughts.

What we are doing

Trust for Nature is joining with others to address this challenge.

With support from the Victorian Government’s Sustainability Fund, the Trust has been reviewing its conservation planning approach in the face of climate change.

As an evidence-based conservation organisation, we are focussing on:

  • continuing habitat protection and expansion of the National Reserve System
  • targeted protection of areas identified as ‘refuges’ including wetlands, waterways, floodplains, rainforests, old-growth forests, rainforests and large, ecologically intact areas
  • targeted protection and restoration of areas identified as important for improving habitat connectivity at local, landscape and regional scales
  • protection and restoration of areas identified as being important as existing carbon stocks (for example, old-growth forests and woodlands) or for their potential to capture and store carbon (for example, inland wetlands, coastal wetlands, mangrove communities, and forests in high-rainfall zones)
  • increased management of pest plants and pest animals that become more prominent in a changing climate
  • increased management effort on other threats to help mitigate the impacts of climate change

To inform our approach, we are exploring new scientific information relating to habitat connectivity, sea-level rises and carbon sequestration in existing and potential protected areas.

We are also examining Catchment Management Authority priority areas for protection and restoration throughout regional Victoria. This helps to clarify and align our future work.

How property owners can respond

While the magnitude of climate change can seem daunting, it is important to recognise and value what can be achieved through local conservation action.

Here is what landowners can do to help protect native plants and animals until there is a global transition to a more sustainable world.

  • Maintain or improve existing habitat so it provides summer food and winter food for native species along with places for shelter and breeding
  • Maintain or improve the quality of the most productive environmental areas of the property (for example, waterways and their boundaries, floodplains, wetlands, mature forest, southerly or easterly slopes)
  • Consider how to improve the extent of habitat on not only your own but on neighbouring properties to increase wildlife corridors and opportunities for species dispersal
  • Tackle existing and emerging threats from pest animals, weeds or over-abundant species of native animals and plants
  • Install nest boxes for a range of species in immature forests
  • Plug drains or build low levees to restore wetlands – with approval from your local Catchment Management Authority
  • Remove Noisy Miners from woodland patches – under permit
  • Ecological thinning of overly dense woodland and forest patches – under permit
  • Selective herbicide treatment of invasive weeds
  • Fencing to protect significant populations of plants from browsing or grazing
  • Use vegetation or physical barriers to help protect coastlines from storm surge
  • Add logs, branches and other natural structures on bare slopes to reduce runoff and soil erosion
  • Ensure that riparian zones are as well vegetated as possible to reduce erosion rates.

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