Climate change impacts and adaptation in the Southern & Southwestern Flatlands cluster: review of existing knowledge

This synthesis report provides a summary of methods utilised and subsequent predictions of the effects of climate change upon biodiversity and agriculture for the Southwestern and Southern Flatlands NRM clusters. 

  •  Climate change predictions for southern Australia include
  1. Temperature increases of 0.5°C to 1–1.5°C by 2030 and by 1°C to 4°C by 2070.
  2. Rainfall decreases of 5 to 20% by 2030 and by 10 to 40% by 2070.
  • Four major threats to biodiversity have been identified
  1.  addition of new species to a region,
  2. altered hydrology patterns,
  3. increased fires, and
  4. altered land use patterns.
  • Concerning agriculture, while unique responses to climate change from different species and ecosystems can be expected. 
  1. Increased atmospheric CO2 may result in increased crop productivity through CO2 fertilisation; however, this is also likely to result in reduced crop protein content.
  2. Crop productivity may be reduced indirectly through increased temperatures.  An increase in temperature coupled with a decrease in precipitation will result in lower quality crops. Increased temperatures are also likely to provide conditions more amenable to pests.
  3. Species distribution modelling (SDM) (aka bioclimatic niche/envelope modelling) has been the most commonly utilised tool for predicting effects of climate change on biodiversity.
  • At the time of this report, SW WA taxa modelled included
  1. Native trees
  2. Freshwater macroinvertebrates
  3. Freshwater fishes
  4. Amphibians
  5. Reptiles
  6. Birds
  7. Mammals
  8. Exotic plants

The general predicted response of SW WA species to climate change was range contraction and/or distribution shifts, typically to the south and west, with magnitude of impact increasing with scenario severity.

  • SA taxa modelled include
  1. Native grasses
  2. Native trees
  3. Amphibians
  4. Reptiles
  5. Birds
  6. Mammals
  7. Exotic Plants
  • As with SW WA, the typical predicted response of SA species to climate change is range contraction, the magnitude of this response also generally increasing with severity of climate change.
  • Concerning agriculture in SW WA, In general, both yield and suitable area for wheat, barley, oats, lupins, and canola are predicted to decrease as a result of climate change.
  • In SA, the exposure of wheat crop yields to drying climates was found to vary among soil types and climatic zones, while the impact of future climates on other agricultural industries in SA is less well understood.



Detailed Descriptions
050209 - Natural Resource Management
Geographic and Temporal Extents
Peel-Harvey, South West, Eyre Peninsula, Avon, Perth, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, Northern Agricultural, South Coast
Esperance Plains, Coolgardie, Flinders Lofty Block, Geraldton Sandplains, Warren, Yalgoo, Jarrah Forest, Kanmantoo, Mallee, Eyre Yorke Block, Swan Coastal Plain, Avon Wheatbelt
Start Start text End End text
Attributions and Constraints
The University of Western Australia
Ben Ford, Barbara Cook, and Daniel Rogers
Ford, B., Cook, B., and Rogers, D. (2013). Climate change impacts and adaptation in the Southern & Southwestern Flatlands cluster: review of existing knowledge. Report No CENRM133, Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, University of Western Australia, Albany.