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Climate change: Transforming our forests

Brouwers, N.C., Ruthrof, K.X., Zeppel, M., Hardy, G. and Matusick, G. (2015) Climate change: Transforming our forests. In: Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference 2015, 29 November - 3 December, Adelaide, South Australia.


Global changes in climate are increasingly affecting forested ecosystems in Australia and around the world. The most striking examples of these effects have been reported in relation to extreme climatic events, such as droughts and heatwaves. In response, dominant tree species have shown distinct periods of severe dieback and mortality, resulting in major changes in forest structure and composition. Less visible, but equally important, are changes in forests driven by gradual long-term changes in temperature and rainfall. These gradual climatic changes increase tree mortality rates, and decrease growth and health. The primary negative flow-on effects of these processes are the reduction in biodiversity as well as a decrease in the potential for long-term carbon uptake and storage in forest ecosystems.

In Australia, the majority of work in relation to climate change processes and their effects on forested ecosystems has been focussing on extreme climatic events, primarily on droughts. There is, however, a real lack of studies looking at the effects of long-term climate trends and their effects on forest health. Several regions in Australia have progressively become drier and warmer over the last five decades and are projected to continue this trend. In these regions, such as the southwest of Western Australia, the aforementioned forest change processes have become more prominent in recent times. To effectively counter the changes, we have to better our understanding of where, when, and what kind of changes are likely to occur through long-term monitoring and research.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
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