|Year of Publication||2007|
|Keywords||a climate change primer for regional NRM bodies, carbon dioxide, climate change, External, NRM, regional catchment management organization|
The evidence of warming of the Earth’s climate system is unequivocal. It is evident from increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels. Recent trend observations of carbon emissions, temperatures and sea levels, coupled with new understanding of feedbacks, imply more severe climate change through the 21st century — and rapidly increasing risks of serious impacts, notably for water availability. For the regions of Australia in which most people live and most food and fibre is produced —i.e. the eastern seaboard and southern and south-western Australia — the greenhouse effect is leading to a hotter, drier climate on average, marked by more extreme weather events, but less rainfall and even less runoff overall. The convergence of climate, water and energy in a carbon-constrained world will change the ground rules for managing natural resources in Australia. Australia’s 56 regional NRM bodies 11 are at the front line of tackling sustainability challenges on the ground. Regional NRM bodies are ‘keepers of the long view’ with a mandate to speak for the catchment as a whole. Climate change responses need to be hard-wired into the core business of every regional NRM body in Australia—not as a separate issue but as a core feature of the operating environment. The two most useful ways of thinking about adaptation are as risk management and reducing vulnerability, which is a product of the potential impact of climate change and the capacity to adapt to climate change. Farming profitably in Australia demands sophisticated risk management, and climate change will force us to get even better. Best practice regional NRM can alleviate existing pressures through actions such as improving land use planning and agricultural practices; restoring landscape connectivity; managing invasive species; targeting provision of environmental water and improving water quality. One of the biggest levers that regional NRM bodies can use is their influence over native vegetation management and revegetation activities. From a climate change perspective, the key revegetation messages are: • Riparian vegetation is in effect often the ‘thin green line’ protecting the arteries of the landscape. Maximise landscape connectivity through riparian plantings (especially on the north and west sides of streams) and through joining up significant remnants with revegetation;• Make new plantings or buffers for remnants as wide as practicable and try to minimise the edge:area ratio (and consequently fencing costs per hectare);• Use local species for habitat plantings, including understorey species, but broaden the genetic base within species as much as possible; and above all • Get the basics right in site preparation, establishment (especially weed control) and protection from browsing. Irrespective of mitigation actions taken now, we—in Australia more than most countries—have to adapt to climate change for the foreseeable future. Teasing out what this means for regional NRM bodies is the focus of this primer, which points to pathways and resources.