Climate change is reshaping Australia’s forests
Australia’s forests are being reshaped by climate change as droughts, heatwaves, rising temperatures and bushfires drive ecosystems towards collapse, ecologists have told Guardian Australia. Trees are dying, canopies are getting thinner and the rate that plants produce seeds is falling. Ecologists have long predicted that climate change would have major consequences for Australia’s forests. Now they believe those impacts are unfolding.
According to the 2018 State of the Climate Report, produced by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, large parts of the country are experiencing increases in weather patterns favourable to fires. The report found that rainfall has dropped in the south-east and south-west of the country, temperatures have warmed by an average of 1C, and a “shift to a warmer climate in Australia is accompanied by more extreme daily heat events”.
In one large shrub species – the south-western native Hooker’s banksia – researchers found seed production has halved in the last 30 years. They say the idea that Australia’s forests are well adapted to the country’s variable climate and can withstand fire and drought, is incorrect. “A big misapprehension is that these things are climatologically flexible, but they’re just not”, explaining that Australia’s dominant eucalypts have “fine-tuned their life history around assumptions of fire frequency”, but “climate change is just blowing that up”.