This page responds to questions frequently asked of Kimberley to Cape. It will grow as we receive your questions! Please ask us what you’d like to know!
Q: How does Kimberley to Cape contribute to climate change action?
A: KtC contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation in both general and specific ways. In a general sense our goals advocate for new and existing businesses to meet sustainability criteria to underpin the North’s clean green credentials, for a market for ecosystem services (such as carbon) and to avoid inappropriate development (such as high emission developments). More proactively we aspire to an intact savanna that links landscapes of particularly high conservation value and maintains connectivity – this in itself is critically import for climate change mitigation through maintaining carbon stores, and for adaptation through safeguarding connected habitat and refugia. In a more specific sense:
- Our ‘Shared Stories of Success’ series incorporates climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in what success looks like for a particular sector. The picture of success for agriculture in the North advocates that climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies be routinely included in decisions throughout supply chains. It would be great to develop a picture of success for energy across the North which included for example, all remote communities being powered by renewables, northern cities achieving renewable energy targets, and the export of renewable energy to Asia. The intent of the stories is to identify and expand common ground around what success looks like, and that the key ideas then become common messages that generate traction (and action!).
- Our monthly Northern Australian News Roundup promotes information regarding climate change mitigation, impacts and adaptation across the North. It highlights carbon market and renewable energy policies and initiatives so Northerners and others know what’s happening and can point to real examples. We’d like to add a specific climate change section when resources are available.
- The Connections Group meets monthly to exchanges updates and ideas which include climate change related work. Our focus topics often touch on climate change and we’ll include it as a topic in its own right in the near future.
- The ‘Our Great North’ (name tbc) publication advocates for a number of actions related to mitigating climate change and includes a section on species particularly vulnerable to fragmentation of habitat, including through climate change pressures.
- The Eucalypts of Northern Australia project includes sections on land clearing and emissions, fire and emissions and estimates of carbon sequestration for different eucalypt vegetation groups. It highlights climate change as a threat and recommends more work to understand these impacts, as well as pricing the carbon emissions of land clearing. We’d like to do more work to follow up recommendations.
- Our submission to the Green Paper on Developing the North, signed by over 30 organisations from multiple sectors, advocates a move away from fossil fuels.
Q: What species are particularly at risk from the fragmentation of Northern Australia’s savanna?
A: A key group of species that rely on an intact savanna are those that use widely-scattered or seasonal food resources, and/or that have multiple habitat requirements. Large intact landscapes provide a higher diversity of resources for these species, and resource rich areas at times when other areas are resource-poor, and their connected habitats allow animals to move across broad landscapes. For example nectar-feeders (such as honeyeaters, lorikeets and flying foxes) and some seed-eaters (such as finches and budgerigars) depend on a sequence of resources which are typically widely dispersed across the savanna. Many raptors (kites, bustards, hawks and eagles) also move over at least hundreds of kilometres in an irregular seasonal dispersal to find food. The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo may be particularly vulnerable to fragmentation due to its food and nest specialisation though at more local scales. Many aquatic species including barramundi and cherabin have specific and multiple habitat and food requirements such as fresh water, salt water and floodplain nurseries, so that disruptions to accessing these due to, for example, dams, artificially low flows and even road crossings, can have serious effects on populations. The more specialised and mobile members of this group of species have, in some cases, already suffered severe declines due to changed habitat management – the Gouldian Finch is a notable example. With further disruption to northern Australian environments, the number of affected species is bound to increase.
Another group of species vulnerable to decreased connectivity are those prone to local extinction events, especially those with limited long-distance mobility. One such example may be Leichhardt’s grasshopper: this species has very low dispersal capability and feeds on only a very narrow range of plant species. These plants are readily diminished by a single fire event, and hence local populations of Leichhardt’s grasshopper may be readily extinguished and those areas are unlikely to be recolonised readily. Over longer periods, with repeated fires, such local extinctions will also be the likely fate of some species with marginally better dispersal ability, such as grass-wrens, and cumulative local extinctions across the range of such species will lead to long-term overall population decline and increased likelihood of extinction.
A third group of species that may be particularly vulnerable to reduction in connectivity are those also prone to the effects of climate change. Predicting these species is difficult, but possible candidates are those with particularly limited distributions within the flatter savanna lowlands such as particular small vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Northern Australian species having limited distributions and small population sizes are particularly susceptible typically because they are closely associated with a particular specialised and localised habitat – one example is bladderworts (Utricularia species) associated with seasonally wet sandsheet environments, and another is species in relatively high (>1000m) altitude environments. Limited distribution Eucalypts with restricted thermal ranges (eg along the west Kimberley coast and in the east Kimberley/inland Victoria River Downs) might also be vulnerable. Similarly, aquatic species sensitive to increased salinities due to rising sea levels, and/or having restricted habitats are vulnerable to climate change eg Gudgeon, Blue eyes, Rainbowfish and Pennyfish. More research is needed on the sensitivity of Northern Australian species to climate change.