Technical ReportPDF Available

Potential Effects of Global Warming on the Biota of the Australian Alps

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This initial report summarises current knowledge of predicted climate change effects on alpine and subalpine biota, with a focus on Kosciuszko National Park in south-eastern NSW. It outlines some possible scenarios of the impacts and responses of the native flora and fauna, and feral animals and weeds to climate change, particularly responses to the scenarios of increased mean temperatures as a result of global warming. It is predicted that there will be both negative and positive impacts on the flora, with increases in the occurrence and distribution of several dominant plant communities (tall alpine herbfield, heathland and sod-tussock grassland) and, as a consequence, decreases in the much smaller areas of the more sensitive communities, particularly short alpine Herbfield and the groundwater communities (fens, bogs and peatlands) that are of particular significance for catchments. It is predicted that the impacts of global warming on the native fauna will first be seen in the decreased distribution and abundance of the alpine endemic Mountain Pygmy Possum and the Broad-toothed Rat, both of which have narrow environmental tolerances. The diversity and abundance of birds at a specified altitude may increase with increasing warming. Little or no information is available in the literature on the possible responses of the alpine invertebrate populations and the soil fauna to climate change. These aspects require much research. Possible interactions between climate change and tourism are likely, including potential synergistic effects on alien plant species resulting in an increased diversity and abundance of weeds, particularly those associated with tourism infrastructure. Increased use of snow manipulation techniques by resorts in response to poor snow years are likely to have negative effects on the vegetation, soils and hydrology of subalpine-alpine areas within ski resorts. The report outlines two major research projects that have been established to gather information on global warming in the Kosciuszko National Park section of the Australian Alps: first, the quantification of regional climatic changes; and second, the formulation of sound predictions on the degree and extent of impacts on the flora and fauna of predicted or quantified climate changes. These studies are complemented by research work being carried out as part of two worldwide alpine area climate change projects in which the authors are involved: GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) and the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) program.
Content may be subject to copyright.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING
ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
Published by the Australian Greenhouse Office,the lead Australian Government agency on greenhouse matters.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2004.
ISBN: 1 920840 19 2
This work is copyright. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes subject to the inclusion of an
acknowledgement of the source, but not for commercial usage or sale.
Reproduction for purposes other than those listed above requires the written permission of the Australian Greenhouse Office.
Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to:
The Manager
Communications
Australian Greenhouse Office
GPO Box 621
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Copies of the document may be obtained by phoning the AGO infoline on 1300 130 606.This document, and other information on
greenhouse, is also available on the internet at: www.greenhouse.gov.au
Front and back cover photos courtesy of Colin Totterdell.
Printed by Elect Printing.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL
WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE
AUSTRALIAN ALPS
A report for the Australian Greenhouse Office
by Dr Catherine Pickering, Roger Good, Dr Ken Green
Authors:
Dr Catherine Pickering
Director,Subprogram in Mountain Tourism
Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences,School of Environmental and Applied Sciences,Griffith University
Roger Good
Senior Project Manager,Southern Directorate, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
Dr Ken Green
Alpine Ecologist, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Snowy Mountains Region
Photographs courtesy of Roger Good, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and
Colin Totterdell.
CONTENTS
Executive Summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Mountain ecosystems and climate change 9
Significance of Australian Alps as a site to quantify climate change 9
Predictions of climate change for the Australian Alps 11
Climate change and fauna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Predicted impacts of climate change on fauna of the Snowy Mountains 14
Climate change and flora . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Predicted impacts of climate change on flora of the Kosciuszko alpine region 20
Potential impact of climate change on other alpine and subalpine areas in Australia 25
Limitations imposed by current understanding of the alpine environment 26
Climate change, tourism and associated impacts on the native biota. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Tourism in Australian snow country 28
Interaction between climate change and tourism 28
Snow manipulation as a response to reduced snow cover and its impacts on the biota 29
Impacts of ski-slope development 30
Impacts of snow-grooming 31
Impacts of snow-harvesting 33
Artificial snow-making 33
The influence of predicted climate change on exotic plant and weed occurrence 33
Impacts of climate change and tourism on weed occurrence 35
Summary of predicted impacts of climate changes on biota 35
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This initial report summarises current knowledge of predicted climate change effects on
alpine and subalpine biota, with a focus on Kosciuszko National Park in south-eastern NSW.
It outlines some possible scenarios of the impacts and responses of the native flora and fauna,
and feral animals and weeds to climate change,particularly responses to the scenarios of
increased mean temperatures as a result of global warming.
It is predicted that there will be both negative and positive impacts on the flora, with
increases in the occurrence and distribution of several dominant plant communities (tall
alpine herbfield, heathland and sod-tussock grassland) and,as a consequence, decreases in
the much smaller areas of the more sensitive communities,particularly short alpine herbfield
and the groundwater communities (fens,bogs and peatlands) that are of particular
significance for catchments.
It is predicted that the impacts of global warming on the native fauna will first be seen in the
decreased distribution and abundance of the alpine endemic Mountain Pygmy Possum and
the Broad-toothed Rat, both of which have narrow environmental tolerances.The diversity
and abundance of birds at a specified altitude may increase with increasing warming.Little or
no information is available in the literature on the possible responses of the alpine invertebrate
populations and the soil fauna to climate change.These aspects require much research.
Possible interactions between climate change and tourism are likely, including potential
synergistic effects on alien plant species resulting in an increased diversity and abundance
of weeds, particularly those associated with tourism infrastructure.Increased use of snow
manipulation techniques by resorts in response to poor snow years are likely to have negative
effects on the vegetation,soils and hydrology of subalpine-alpine areas within ski resorts.
The report outlines two major research projects that have been established to gather
information on global warming in the Kosciuszko National Park section of the Australian Alps:
first, the quantification of regional climatic changes; and second,the formulation of sound
predictions on the degree and extent of impacts on the flora and fauna of predicted or
quantified climate changes.These studies are complemented by research work being carried
out as part of two worldwide alpine area climate change projects in which the authors are
involved:GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) and the
Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) program.
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
6
BACKGROUND
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
8
Predictions of climate change have been made over the past decade,and there are now a
number of indicators that give support to global warming and changes in precipitation
distribution and form.These climatic changes are attributed predominantly to human
activities and resource use (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC 2001).
The global average temperature has increased by approximately 0.6 ºC in the past 100 years,
and is predicted to continue to rise. An average global warming of 0.7 to 2.5 ºC by 2050 and
1.4 to 5.8 ºC by 2100 is predicted, with greater warming at higher latitudes (IPCC 2001;
Hennessy et al.2002; Root et al.2003).
Recent reports, including several by personnel associated with the IPCC, indicate that there is
a very high level of confidence that climate change is already affecting sensitive ecosystems
(Bouma et al.1996; Parmesan and Yohe 2003; Root et al.2003). For example,a meta-analysis
of 279 native species found that there has been an average range shift of 6.1 km towards the
poles per decade (or metres per decade in altitude) and significant advancement of seasonal
spring events by 2.3 days per decade (Parmesan and Yohe 2003). Other studies also report
advancements in springtime events of an average of 5.1 days per decade for those species
showing a change (Root et al.2003).
The major concerns expressed in these studies are that the species responses/changes have
occurred for an average temperature change of just 0.6 ºC (Root et al.2003).Therefore, the
much larger climatic changes predicted to occur worldwide, including those for Australia
and the Australian Alps,are likely to have even more far-reaching effects on the native biota
(Pearman 1988; Bouma et al 1996;Williams and Mitchell 1996; Root et al.2003).
Based on the climate change models and existing information about distribution of high
mountain animals and plants,predictions can be made about the potential effects on alpine
and subalpine biota. There are four main types of changes in biota that can occur in response
to climate change:
1. changes in the number and abundance of species at given locations and/or changes in
the altitudinal range of individual species and/or species associations, with a shift either
toward the poles or towards higher altitudes (narrower altitudinal range).Changes of this
type have been found in many forms and species of biota (lichens to mammals) and a
wide range of environments (e.g. marine zooplankton to treelines) (Parmesan and Yohe
2003; Root et al. 2003)
2. change in the timing and extent of seasonal events for natural history traits that are
triggered by temperature.These changes/responses could include changes in migration,
flowering, egg laying etc. Already, meta-analysis has indicated earlier flowering and bird
migration of the order of 2.3 days per decade in response to existing climatic change
(Green and Pickering 2002; Parmesan and Yohe 2003)
3. change in morphology and productivity,e.g. larger or smaller trees, changes in
biomass etc and
4. changes in genetic traits, including plant species and an increase in hybridisation.
The authors of this report have to date concentrated on examining changes in the abundance
and range of species,as there is some inferential evidence that this type of change is already
occurring in alpine biota, including those in the Australian Alps (Green and Pickering 2002;
Parmesan and Yohe 2003; Root et al.2003).
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
BACKGROUND 9
MOUNTAIN ECOSYSTEMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The ecosystems of high mountain environments,whose dynamics and functionality are
controlled by low-temperature conditions,are considered to be particularly sensitive to
climate change and global warming (Green 1998;Körner 1999; IPCC 2001;Pauli et al.2001;
Root et al.2003). For example, the thermal life zones of alpine/mountain environments are
compressed and their temperature determined ecotones are narrow,compared with their
horizontal/latitudinal transition zones.Therefore,these narrow mountain ecotones are the
most appropriate sites for quantification of expected biotic changes from global warming.
In addition, the impacts of human land use, which could mask climate-related signals at lower
elevations,are relatively limited in many mountain ecosystems, including the Australian Alps
(Green 1998; Körner 1999;Pauli et al.2001; Hamilton 2002).Therefore,high mountain
ecosystems will be important ‘ecological indicators’of climate change and its effects,due to
their comparatively low biotic complexity and the dominance of abiotic factors (particularly
climate) over biotic factors,such as competition (Green 1998; Körner 1999; Pauli et al.2001).
Hence, global warming impacts on alpine precipitation (amount of rainfall and snow),and its
impacts on the flora and fauna, and ecosystem functioning are expected to be among the first
quantifiable indications of climate change.
Climate change is increasingly recognised as having a diverse range of potential impacts on
the Australian alpine and subalpine biota, and is now identified as a major threat to some
species and ecological communities (Good 1998a;Kosciuszko National Park Independent
Scientific Committee, ISC 2002;Pickering and Hill 2003; Pickering and Armstrong 2003).
According to ISC, this will require specific management actions, research and monitoring to be
implemented in the next two to three years to ameliorate the impacts of climate change on
the sensitive biota (ISC 2002).
SIGNIFICANCE OF AUSTRALIAN ALPS AS A SITE TO
QUANTIFY CLIMATE CHANGE
The total amount of precipitation falling as snow, its distribution and cover are limited,
both temporally and spatially in Australia (Figure 1),compared to Europe and north and south
America. Only 11,500 km2(approximately 0.15%) of the continent receives regular winter snow
falls (Costin et al.2000).The most extensive snow-covered area is in the south-east of the
continent, around Mt Kosciuszko in New South Wales (Snowy Mountains), and it is only
around 2500 km2.Of this, only 1200 km2receives 60 or more days of snow cover, and only
250 km2(or 0.001% of Australia) is true alpine (Green and Osborne 1994;Costin et al.2000,
Figure 2). Other smaller alpine regions occur as relatively isolated areas in Victoria between
Mt Hotham and Mt Bogong (around 1000 km2with 60 or more days of snow cover),in the
Brindabella ranges in the Australian Capital Territory (150 km2) and in the Central Highlands
and higher peaks in Tasmania (1270 km2of alpine and subalpine) (Costin 1989; Green and
Osborne 1994). In addition, the maximum altitudinal range within which snow occurs is very
limited – around 800 m from the snowline to the highest peak on the Australian continent,
Mt Kosciuszko (2228 m) (Figure 2).Snow cover is also very variable and often patchy,
particularly in the smaller alpine areas in Victoria and Tasmania. Even in the higher and more
extensive alpine area around Mt Kosciuszko, snow-patches that last from year to year are a
rare event. The general period of snow cover lasts about five months (Slayter et al.1984;
Galloway 1988; Brown and Millner 1989).
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
10
FIGURE 1. DISTRIBUTION OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPINE AND SUBALPINE ZONES.
Adapted from Green 1998.
FIGURE 2. LOCATION OF THE KOSCIUSZKO ALPINE AREA.
Modified from Scherrer and Pickering 2001.
BACKGROUND 11
Each of the alpine regions in Australia has a distinctive and characteristic biota that individually
and collectively are of considerable biological importance.A high number of endemic species
occur within the main alpine regions in south-eastern Australia, including the ‘living fossil’
and the Mountain Pygmy Possum (Burrymus parvu) (Good 1992;Green and Osborne 1994).
The Mt Kosciuszko alpine area flora is particularly diverse containing a unique combination of
plant species, some of which are related to those of alpine areas elsewhere in the world, but
many of which are indigenous,having evolved through millions of years of continental drift
and changing climatic conditions (mainly increasing aridity).The indigenous species mirror
the biological separateness of Australian flora (Smith 1986;Good 1992; Costin et al.2000).
There is a very high number of endemic and rare flora species (25%),one of the highest
proportions of endemic species of any world alpine flora (21 endemic species and 33 rare species
in a total of 212 native ferns and flowering plants,Smith 1986; Good 1992; Costin et al.2000).
The alpine plants and animals exhibit a range of distinctive adaptations to the extreme
environmental conditions,particularly survival traits to the climatic conditions.For example,
body temperature regulation by changing body colour is found in different degrees in the
alpine grasshoppers,while bats, the Mountain Pygmy Possum and Echidna can lower their
metabolism and body functions and enter a ‘hibernation-like’ state of torpor, the only
mammals to do so in Australia (Green and Osborne 1994).The plants exhibit a suite of
reproductive and vegetative characteristics similar to alpine plants elsewhere in the world
(Pickering 1997), several specific and interesting survival mechanisms are exhibited by species
such as the Alpine Marsh Marigold (Caltha introloba) and the Alpine Sky Lilly (Herpilerion
novae-zealandae) (Good 1992;Good 1998a; Costin et al.2000).
PREDICTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE FOR THE
AUSTRALIAN ALPS
Early predictions of climate change and global warming and its impacts on agricultural
productivity and the occurrence of bushfires relevant to the Australian environment were
made in the late 1980s and 1990s by Pittock and Nix (1986), Gifford (1988 and 1991), Pearman
(1988), Bouma et al.(1996), Whetton et al.(1996) and others.Gifford (1988 and 1991) reports
on several models used to predict the percentage reduction or increase in temperatures and
decreases in precipitation and the relevant changes in productivity.
Good (1998b) utilised these data and data from several bushfire events to assess the
contribution of wildfires and planned management burns (prescribed burning) to Greenhouse
gas emissions and global warming.
Early predictions on climate change and the possible impacts on snow conditions in
Australian Alps were made by Slatyer (et al.1984),Galloway (1988) and Busby (1988), among
others. They predicted a dramatic decline in the total area receiving snow and a decline in
total amount of snow.As noted above, the IPCC made early predictions on climate change and
in its last assessment in 2001 presented scenarios for global warming for 1990–2100, with
predicted warming from 0.7 to 2.5 ºC by 2050. From this assessment,the Australian CSIRO
Climate Impact Group estimated regional warming and precipitation values for Australia
(CIG 1996). Under these scenarios, the ‘best-case’scenario for snow is the least increase in
temperature and the greatest increase in winter precipitation (see Whetton et al.1996 and
Hennesy et al.2002 for a full discussion). For example,even a modest warming (‘best-case
scenario’ of only +0.6 ºC by 2050;Table 1) will result in a 27% reduction in the area that receives
30 days of snow per year in the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alps (Hennesy et al.2002).
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
12
Under the ‘worst-case scenario’(Table 1),a reduction of 97% by 2050 is forecast in areas that
have more than 60 days of snow cover a year.A reduction in snow cover of this scale will have
an impact on the unique and biologically important flora and fauna of the region (Green 1998).
Changes in the diversity and abundance of plants and animals may be particularly severe in
Australia, because of the minimal area of true alpine habitat,and therefore the limited
availability of high altitude refuge.The latter may disappear altogether under the worst-case
scenario, with devastating effects on some alpine species.For example, Mt Kosciuszko is
500 to 600 m lower than the theoretical niveal zone (Slatyer et al.1984), so there is no
opportunity for an altitudinal shift in the alpine zone.
TABLE 1. CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIOS FOR SNOWY MOUNTAINS AND VICTORIAN ALPS
from Hennesy et al.2002
CHANGES IN: BEST CASE BEST CASE WORST CASE WORST CASE
2020 2050 2020 2050
Temperature +0.2 ºC +0.6 ºC +1.0 ºC +2.6 ºC
Precipitation +3% +8% -8% -23%
Reduction in area
experiencing snow cover
At least 1 day 9% 19% 37% 87%
At least 30 days 13% 27% 55% 93%
At least 60 days 15% 34% 60% 97%
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FAUNA
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
14
Seasonal snow cover is recognised as a major determinant of the faunal composition of the
subalpine and alpine areas of the Snowy Mountains above 1500 m (Green and Osborne 1994,
1998).Within the latitudinal band of south-eastern mainland Australia that encompasses the
Snowy Mountains, i.e.the area between the coast and the inland western slopes, 25 species
of mammals occur in areas of winter snow cover (Green and Osborne 1998). Most of these
species are also common at low altitudes with two exceptions,the Mountain Pygmy Possum
(Burramys parvus) and the Broad-toothed Rat (Mastacomys fuscus).In the Snowy Mountains,
the Mountain Pygmy Possum is found only above the level of the winter snowline and the
Broad-toothed Rat only above 1000 m (Green and Osborne 1994).In addition to native species,
feral mammals, including foxes, hares and horses, are found in the mountains (Green and
Osborne 1994). No bird species are confined to the mountains,but it is the composition of the
avifauna,particularly the absence of some species found nearby at lower altitudes, which is a
characteristic of the snow-country avifauna (Osborne and Green 1994).Of the 271 native
species of birds occurring at sea level, only 66 species are found above 1500 m,of which
only 13 are winter residents (Green and Osborne 1994).
PREDICTED IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON
FAUNA OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS
Based on the pooled data from the Atlas of NSW Wildlife, a National Parks and Wildlife Service
(NPWS) database, 35 species of mammals,six of which are feral,generally decline in number
of records with increasing altitude (Table 2). For 20 of the species, including all the bats,
the decline in number of records with altitude is likely to be unrelated to snow (Green and
Osborne 1998; Group 1 in Table 2).For example, the decline in the seven species of tree
dependent possum species at higher altitudes due to trees becoming smaller or absent at
higher altitudes and the house mouse (Mus musculus) that might be excluded above the
winter snowline from lack of suitable food (Green and Osborne 1998).For a second group of
species (Group 2 in Table 2), exclusion or reduction in numbers above the winter snowline may
be the result of competition with the more common higher altitude species that may derive a
competitive advantage from the presence of snow (Dickman et al.1983).The three successfully
competing native species,Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii), Broad-toothed Rat and
Mountain Pygmy Possum are the only species that have been recorded as increasing in
numbers with altitude. Finally, there is a third group of mammals (six native and four feral
species; Group 3 in Table 2) where snow appears to be the major factor in the reduced
numbers of records at higher altitudes (Green and Osborne 1998;Table 2).
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FAUNA 15
TABLE 2. SPECIES OF MAMMALS THAT DECLINE IN NUMBERS OF RECORDS WITH INCREASING
ELEVATION, THE PROBABLE REASONS FOR THE DECLINE, AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE
DECLINE TO PRESENCE OF SNOW. (Data from the Atlas of NSW Wildlife,a NPWS database.)
aFeral animals.
bWithin the study area feral horses are not common below 1000 m.
cThese species increase in numbers with increased altitude.
There is some evidence of an increasing altitudinal distribution of some mammals over the
30-year period to 1999. Wildlife Atlas records indicate a higher maximum altitudinal
distribution particularly for the Red-necked Wallaby and for the four species of feral mammals
(Table 3). Other evidence for increasing activity by feral mammals at higher altitudes supports
this trend (Table 3).In the 1970s, Snowy Plains (1370 m) was regarded as climatically marginal
for rabbits (Dunsmore 1974), yet during the summer of 1998–99 the NPWS was forced to
institute a rabbit control program at Perisher Valley (1800 m) (Sanecki and Knutson 1998).
DECLINING SPECIES REASON FOR DECLINE
Group 1: Decline not snow-related in the short term
Bats (11 species) Reduction in flying insects
Possums (7 species) Require trees
Koala Absence of food tree species
House MouseaLack of food for a specialist granivore
Group 2: Longer-term changes indirectly related to snow
DogaAbsence of large prey/competition with Foxa
Agile Antechinus Competition with Dusky Antechinusc
Swamp Rat Competition with Broad-toothed Ratc
Eastern Pygmy Possum Competition with Mountain Pygmy Possumc
Spotted-tailed Quoll Competition with Foxa
Group 3: Decline likely to be snow-related
Kangaroos and Wallabies (3 species) Mobility in snow/access to food
Wombat Access to ground-based food
Echidna Access to ground-based food
Bandicoot Access to ground-based food
CataHunting method
RabbitaPigaHorseab Access to ground-based food
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
16
TABLE 3. MEAN ALTITUDE (M) OF THE THREE HIGHEST ALTITUDINAL RECORDS FOR MAMMALS
IN THE ATLAS OF NSW WILDLIFE, A NPWS DATABASE, TOGETHER WITH OTHER SOURCES OF
EVIDENCE FOR AN ALTITUDINAL SHIFT (SAMPLE SIZE IN PARENTHESIS).
aFeral animals. 1. Anecdotal records by local long-term residents. 2. Indirect evidence (dung or area of animal
digging/vegetation disturbance). 3. Increased presence in predator scats. 4. Occurrence of tracks on regular snow
transects. 5. Rabbit control required for first time at ski resort at 1800 m.
Among the macropods there is little evidence of altitudinal movements of Red-necked
Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) and Grey Kangaroo (M.giganteus), Table 3. The few records of
solitary individuals of these species at higher altitudes may be males dispersing or seeking
mates, rather than grazing animals. For example, the Grey Kangaroo is a social species
(Bennett 1995) but the high altitude records were all of individual animals.The situation with
the Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) is, however,different.While the other two species of
macropods are grazers,the Swamp Wallaby is a browser and therefore seasonal snow cover
will not severely reduce its access to food.Despite several years of extensive winter fauna
surveys (Osborne et al.1978) and further winter work through 1979 (Green and Osborne 1981),
no tracks of Swamp Wallabies were observed in winter along the main access trail for these
studies, whereas in recent winters (Green unpublished) Swamp Wallaby tracks have been
observed on this trail on almost all weekly winter visits.
Additional support for the impact of snow cover on animal numbers comes from the response
of species to years of shallow snow cover. In these years there is evidence for a reduction in
populations of the three species of native mammal that increased in number of records with
altitude. Populations of Dusky Antechinus (Green 1988) and Broad-toothed Rat (Green
unpublished) declined in poor snow depth years, while in the Mountain Pygmy Possum
population there was also a lowered recruitment (L.Broome pers. comm. 2000).The latter
species depends upon snow cover for stable,low temperatures for torpor (‘hibernation’)
(Walter and Broome 1998),whereas the two former species are active under the snow
throughout winter (Green 1988) and are therefore more prone to predation by foxes (Green
and Osborne 1981). Using a bioclimatic analysis and prediction system to examine present and
predicted future animal distribution, Brereton et al.(1995) suggested a potential decrease in
areas of suitable habitat for Broad-toothed Rats with global warming.Already the Broad-
toothed Rat population is under pressure at Barrington Tops, 600 km north of the Snowy
Mountains.The population studied there in the 1980s (Dickman and McKechnie 1985) was in
serious decline by 1999 in the face of invasion by Swamp Rats (Rattus lutreolus) (Green 2000).
DECADE 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999 OTHER EVIDENCE
Number of records 1500 m 586 470 597
Grey Kangaroo 1500(10) 1400(39) 1700(28)
Swamp Wallaby 1233(3) 1267(16) 1700(32) 1, 2,4
Red-necked Wallaby 1533(17) 1333(41) 1567(17)
Cata1267(3) 1600(3) 1,3
Horsea1233(3) 1000(2) 1900(17) 1,2
Piga1400(22) 1533(12) 1, 2
Rabbita1670(17) 1300(7) 1800(26) 1,3, 5
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FAUNA 17
A similar process may occur in the Snowy Mountains with a reduction in snow cover. This is
likely to reduce the competitive advantage of Broad-toothed Rats and may act synergistically
with increased incursions of feral animals,particularly foxes,whose hunting is made easier by
a thin snow cover (Halpin and Bissonette 1988).
In addition to the apparent changes in the distribution of some mammal species associated
with changes in snow cover, migratory birds may also be affected.Among the migratory birds,
the only observable change in timing of arrival, for those species for which there was a
sufficient sample size, was one of an earlier arrival in the 1980s and/or 1990s compared to the
1970s. For the 11 bird species for which there were sufficient data (Table 4), the earliest arrivals
were recorded in the 1990s for five species (four of these occurring in an earlier month) and
the 1980s (generally differing by only a few days from the earliest date for the 1990s) in four.
For two species – Grey Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa) and Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) – there
was no difference in arrival times across the three decades. While there has been a greater
search effort through the 1990s by one of the authors (Ken Green),the search effort for the
period 1971–1980 was boosted by a large fauna survey (CSIRO unpublished) and two studies
of the avifauna (Longmore 1973;Gall and Longmore 1978). While the earlier arrival records
detected in the 1990s might be ascribed to a greater search effort (152 records entered
compared with 124 from August to October in the 1970s), the same explanation cannot be
used for the arrival records in the 1980s.There was only half the number of records in the
same period in the 1980s, and yet six of the nine species that varied in time of immigration
were recorded earlier in the 1980s than the 1970s.
TABLE 4. TIME OF FIRST ARRIVAL OF MIGRATORY BIRDS AT OR ABOVE 1500 M AFTER WINTER TO
THE END OF 1997. The earliest record for each decade is given and all other dates (maximum
one per year) earlier than the earliest record in 1970–1979. Source: The NSW Wildlife Atlas,
a NPWS database.
SPECIES 1970–1979 1980–1989 1990–1999
Number of records from
August to October 124 65 152
Crescent Honeyeater 19 Oct 26 Oct 12 Sep,17 Sep,30 Sep
Olive Whistler 15 Sep 22 Sep 21 Aug
Flame Robin 2 Sep 17 Aug 21 Aug
Grey Fantail 19 Oct 26 Oct 23 Oct
Striated Pardalote 16 Sep 24 Aug, 15 Sep 30 Aug
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 18 Sep 26 Oct 12 Sep
Australian Kestrel 5 Nov 20 Sep, 26 Oct 30 Aug, 8 Sep,
23 Sep, 28 Sep
Fantail Cuckoo 25 Nov 21 Sep, 20 Oct 23 Oct
Red Wattlebird 14 Oct 13 Sep, 20 Sep 20 Sep
Richards Pipit 16 Sep 5 Sep 28 Aug
Silvereye 19 Oct 18 Oct, 20 Oct 22 Oct, 23 Oct
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
18
The arrival responses of migratory birds are variable and may be dependent upon their
foraging techniques. The species recorded as arriving earlier include three species of
honeyeaters that are dependent on the flowering of shrubs (see also Osborne and Green
1992). The Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides) is largely dependent upon snow-free ground
for foraging. The ground-feeding Flame Robin (Petroica phoenicea) and Richards Pipit (Anthus
novaeseelandiae) arrive early in spring and feed on insects immobilised on the surface of
the snow.The earlier presence of these insects is associated with, and is a response to,
sufficient warmth at their point of origin for metamorphosis and flight.The Olive Whistlers
(Pachycephala olivacea) and Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) glean active insects off
shrubs and trees. Movements of Fantail Cuckoos (Cuculus flabelliformis) must be attuned to
the breeding timetable of their hosts. The two species that appear not to arrive earlier despite
changes in snow cover over the three decades are the Grey Fantail, which catches insects in
flight, and the Silvereye, which undertakes long migratory flights, the timing of which may
be independent of local events elsewhere.
There are obvious statistical problems with the data sets in examining changes in the
altitudinal distribution of mammals and the time of first arrival of migratory bird species.
These include large variations in sample size,sampling effort and sampling time. The use of
the numbers of records of mammals 1500 m entered per decade and the number of records
in the three-month period of influx of migratory birds as indices of climate change,while not
perfect, do suggest that there is no great bias as a result of differential search effort. This
report also does not state unequivocally,and should not be taken as inferring, that all of the
changes in animal distribution (both spatially and temporally) are a direct result of observed
changes in snow cover. For many of the changes there are possible and plausible alternative
explanations. Changing land use in the Alps is,however, not one of those. During the course
of this study period there have been no major changes in land use patterns at the higher
altitudes to explain differences in animal distribution.The study area was declared a State
Park in 1944 and summer grazing was withdrawn from the alpine area of the Main Range in
1946 and banned above 1360 m in 1958 (Good 1992).Any increased use by humans has largely
been confined to the few ski resorts and access routes. However,the changes are those that
might reasonably be hypothesised to result from reduced snow cover, and the observed
change in snow cover is the only explanation that can account for all.Therefore,the patterns
documented here could be a model for likely changes to animal distribution,and hence
biodiversity, with predicted changes in snow cover. The data here is consistent with worldwide
patterns for changes in spring events with climate change (Parmesan and Yohe 2003).
Further global warming resulting in a declining snow cover may therefore have a major
impact upon the faunal composition of the alpine/subalpine areas of the Snowy Mountains,
allowing greater access by feral animals and reducing the competitive advantage of the
higher altitude species. As such,while possibly increasing the numbers of species in the
Snowy Mountains, this process may reduce the regional biodiversity by the loss or serious
reduction of populations of endemic species. Such a loss would be very significant at a local,
regional, national and international scientific level.
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FLORA
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
20
The current climate change scenarios outlined in Table 1 will predictably affect the abundance
and distribution of plants species in the alpine and subalpine regions of Australia. A detailed
knowledge of the ecology of individual Australian alpine plant species is in most cases
minimal, so it is only feasible to postulate about the impacts of climate change on the main
plant communities and the few species for which detailed ecological information is available
(Costin 1954, 1957, 1958,1989; Costin et al.1959, 1969,2000; Carr and Turner 1959; Bryant 1971,
1971b; Edwards 1977;Keane et al.1979; Mallen 1986;Mallen-Cooper 1990; Good 1992;Atkin and
Collier 1992; Pickering 1993; Pickering 1997;Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998, 1999;Good 1998a;
Venn 2001;Pickering and Armstrong 2003). In this report we hypothesise about potential
changes in the pattern of distribution and association of the 11 natural vegetation
communities recognised by Costin (1954, 1957;Costin et al.2000) in the largest contiguous
alpine region in Australia, the Kosciuszko alpine area.
Climate change may affect the distribution of the plant communities directly through
changes in temperature and precipitation,and indirectly through the depth and distribution
of snow cover. Climate change may also have indirect effects through resulting longer
growing seasons, changes in prevailing soil moisture and changes in vegetative competition
(Good 1998a; Pickering 1998). The effects of climate change on the abiotic factors that are
thought to determine the distribution of alpine plant communities will be further examined
for the next three to five decades. For example, predicted climate change will alter a number
of abiotic factors (e.g. duration of snow cover,the period of freezing/lethal temperatures and
soil moisture regimes),variables that have been associated with the occurrence and
distribution of several alpine plant communities (Costin 1954, 1957; Carr and Turner 1959;
Ashton and Williams 1989;Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998, 1999;Atkin and Collier 1992; Costin
et al.2000; Venn 2001). Changes in these factors due to human disturbance in the past
(grazing, trampling) have led to some minor changes in the distribution of some communities.
For example,as a result of cattle grazing small areas of tall alpine herbfield have been
replaced by ‘erosion feldmark’(Good 1972, 1992).This provides support for the link between
abiotic factors and vegetation community distributions (Costin 1954; Wimbush and Costin
1979; Ashton and Williams 1989; Clarke and Martin 1999;Costin et al.2000; Johnston and
Pickering 2001).
PREDICTED IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON FLORA
OF THE KOSCIUSZKO ALPINE REGION
Climate change will affect plant communities in the Kosciuszko alpine study area, but the
extent of change and the vegetation responses exhibited will be influenced by the rate and
degree of temperature and precipitation change.The over-arching pattern of change is likely
to involve alterations in the distribution and species composition of the existing communities,
primarily due to fundamental changes in the climatic factors that define their present
distributions (Table 5).
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FLORA 21
TABLE 5. SUMMARY OF POTENTIAL CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS IN THE PLANT COMMUNITIES OF
THE KOSCIUSZKO ALPINE AREAS
PLANT COMMUNITY CURRENT PREDICTED CHANGES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE
CLIMATIC PLANT COMMUNITY AS A RESULT OF CLIMATE
RANGE CHANGE
Short alpine herbfield Alpine The reduction in late-lying snow patches may result in
colonisation of some remnant areas of short alpine
herbfield by tall alpine herbfield species. For smaller snow
patches there could be complete loss of community, while
in larger patches there will be a reduction in area occupied
by this community.
Feldmark
1. Windswept feldmark Alpine Potential increase in area of windswept feldmark if
reduced snow cover in winter results in greater areas
exposed to high winds. This could result in areas of stony
erosion pavements being colonised by windswept feldmark.
2. Snowpatch feldmark Alpine Reduced area as windswept feldmark species will colonise
the area in response to the reduction in the area of late-
lying snow patches.
Tall alpine herbfield Alpine Unlikely to be greatly affected while snow cover remains
1.Brachyscome- adequate, as this specialised community is restricted to
Austrodanthonia areas that are subject to relatively rapid natural erosion.
alliance
2. Celmisia-Poa alliance Alpine Likely to increase in area while adequate (3-4 months)
snow cover continues to occur. The community potentially
could expand into areas currently occupied by mesic
communities. They may be affected by increased
herbivory,including grazing by feral animals, if rising
temperatures cause changes in dominance of species
within the community.Some areas currently with tall
alpine herbfield may be colonised by shrubs.
Sod tussock grassland Alpine Warmer nights, drier soils and greater soil aeration due to
Subalpine predicted climate change could result in increased growth
of herbs and shrubs, resulting in the community becoming
a heathland or grassy shrubland.
Groundwater
Communities
1. Fen Alpine Decreased precipitation and increased temperature may
Subalpine result in decreased run-off into fens leading to changes in
Montane competitive advantage of fen species,potentially resulting
in replacement by sod tussock grassland species in drier sites.
2. Valley bog Alpine A reduction in soil moisture associated with climate
Subalpine change is likely to promote the replacement of valley bogs
Montane by sod tussock grassland species. If the reduction in snow
cover is to the level experienced by subalpine vegetation,
then valley bogs could be colonised by tussock grassland
and heath communities.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
22
It is predicted that some native species will benefit from climate change by colonising
areas from which other species or communities have been lost as a result of changed
environmental conditions.Shrub species are particularly likely to expand in range, along
with some herbs and grasses of the tall alpine herbfield. The Kosciuszko endemic,
for example Ovate Phebalium (Phebalium ovatifolium), may have the opportunity to increase
in population number and extent of occurrence. Even some species from the restricted plant
communities that are expected to decline may benefit, at least in the short to medium term.
For example,White Purslane (Neopaxia australasica) and Silver Ewartia (Ewartia nubigena),
species that are found in the short alpine herbfield and feldmark respectively,can colonise
bare areas and so may increase in abundance with climate change.These species have
increased in cover following previous disturbances, and often colonise areas associated
with human disturbance (Edwards 1977; Keane 1977;Wimbush and Costin 1979; Good 1992).
The extent of changes in the distribution of plant species and communities will, predictably,
be indirectly influenced by reduced snow cover. This is expected to cause an increase in the
diurnal freezing and thawing of the alpine humus soils, with increased ‘frost-heave’ action in
areas with exposed soils. A flow-on effect will be a decrease in organic matter decomposition
rates and a resulting depletion of soil nutrients within the nutrient cycling regime of the
alpine humus soils. This could greatly affect high biomass-producing plant communities,
such as tall alpine herbfield and heath, leading to a reduction in their area of distribution.
The alpine humus soils are low in nutrients and are only able to support high biomass
production through the rapid growth, biomass accumulation,decomposition, and nutrient
release to the growing plants. An important component of the soil organic matter
decomposition is the soil micro-fauna and invertebrate populations, which will similarly be
reduced in number and activity if soil temperatures are reduced in the autumn and spring
and increased in summer.
PLANT COMMUNITY CURRENT PREDICTED CHANGES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE
CLIMATIC PLANT COMMUNITY AS A RESULT OF CLIMATE
RANGE CHANGE
3. Raised bog Alpine Warmer drier conditions are likely to lead to the
Subalpine colonisations of raised bog areas by snowgrasses (Poa sps.)
Montane and other tall alpine herbfield species. If snow cover declines
further, then it is possible that valley bog species may
colonise wetter areas and shrubs may colonise drier areas.
Heath
1. Epacris-Kunzea Alpine Heath may colonise other communities,particularly
alliance Subalpine replacing fen and bog species if conditions become warmer
Montane and drier.
2.Oxylobium- Alpine Many of these shrub species may invade other
Podocarpus Subalpine communities such as tall alpine herbfields and sod tussock
alliance Montane grasslands communities. However, this heath may itself be
colonised by other subalpine species if snow cover declines
to levels currently experienced in the subalpine zone.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FLORA 23
Under past and existing climatic conditions,alpine vegetation is placed under moisture stress
through the winter months (physiological drought) and for short but regular periods during
summer (low soil moisture availability as a result of short seasonal rainfall deficits).An increase
in mean summer temperature and decreased rainfall may exacerbate/extend the length of
time of moisture stress,advantaging those species that are able to adapt to the moisture
deficits and higher temperatures. Part of this adaptation will be the capacity of species to
tolerate higher levels of solar radiation, particularly the increasing levels of ultraviolet light.
Increased levels of ultraviolet light have already been shown to have a detrimental impact
on the Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) (Green unpublished data).
If the scenario of reduced snowfall and snow cover but increased precipitation as rainfall
eventuates,runoff may increase considerably with an increasing potential for soil and
vegetation degradation.This may also influence the occurrence and distribution of plant
communities, although most modelling predictions to date suggest a reduced total
precipitation over southern Australia (Nathan et al.1989).
RESPONSE OF SPECIFIC INDICATOR PLANT SPECIES
(i) Buttercups (Ranunculus species).During the grazing era, buttercups (Ranunculus) were
noted as hybridising more than any other Family or Genus.Extensive hybridisation was
attributed to grazing modifying the environment,resulting in favourable habitats for
hybrids to grow and flower (Briggs 1986; Pickering 1993).With the cessation of grazing,
hybrids have become less common,and intermediate habitats between those favoured
by each species have declined (Briggs 1986; Pickering 1993). Any increase in hybridisation
over the next 10 to 15 years could be a response to the impact of temperature increases
and reduced periods of snow cover (T. Armstrong,pers. com. Landcare,NZ).
Of particular interest is the Anemone Buttercup (Ranunculus anemoneues) that survived
grazing in isolated refuge sites.Only in the past 10 years has the plant population
increased to any degree (Rath 1999).Importantly, the occurrences of new populations of
plants have been in sites (snowpatch and dry sites) very different to that of all the refuge
site conditions. If the drier sites are the type location for R.anemoneus,a change in
temperature could further benefit the species with further increases in species
occurrence, although at this time the moist to wet outwash areas in tall alpine
herbfields is considered to be the type habitat.
(ii) The Alpine Marsh-marigold (Caltha introloba) would appear to potentially be one of
the first indicators of changes in mean temperatures,as the species has adapted to the
short growing season by the initiation of flowering under a snow cover (Wardlaw 1998).
As soon as light intensity and penetration of the melting snow occurs, the development
of the flower primordia is reinitiated and a large proportion of the plant population has
flowers ready for pollination immediately as the snow cover disappears.
Predicted changes in snow depth and distribution will have some impact on the
flowering process, with a possible reduction in total flower numbers and/or influence
on seed set and seed viability (Wardlaw 1998).
(iii) The Sky Lily (Herpolerion novae-zealandae), another species with very specialised habitat
requirements and low tolerances to changes in habitat conditions,will predictably be an
early indicator of temperature changes.Flowering is initiated by a very narrow
temperature regime and the flowers only persist for three to four hours while this
temperature and associated humidity regime persists (Good 1992, 1998a; Costin et al.2000).
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
24
An increase in mean temperature and a reduction in micro-habitat humidity conditions
may result in a very reduced flowering and/or non-viability of any seed.
(iv) The Mountain Plum Pine (Podocarpus lawrencii) is the only podocarp in the Alps and is
the longest lived plant of the alpine zone. Seed set is very closely linked to prevailing
temperature conditions and,like the other species, changes in temperature may influence
the effectiveness and viability of seed set.
The species has a growth habit that utilises large boulders and rocks for support and to
provide micro-habitat temperature conditions benefiting its growth and survival (Costin
et al.2000). An increase in mean temperature could be indicated by new recruits of this
species growing as free-standing shrubs not requiring the warm conditions provided by
the rocks and boulders.
RESPONSE OF SPECIFIC INDICATOR PLANT COMMUNITIES
(i) Groundwater communities (bogs and fens) were destroyed or highly degraded as
functional ecosystems during 150 years of domestic stock grazing (Good 1992,1999;
Costin et al.2000). Less than 50% of the original bog and fen areas remain in the Alps,
and of this area only approximately 30% is considered fully functional as groundwater
communities. As with many other communities and species that persisted through the
grazing era, the surviving functional fens and bogs are small in size and in marginal
sites. A number have been rehabilitated to a functional capacity but their retention as
functional systems will require careful management (Good 1999). An increase in mean
ambient temperatures potentially could result in further loss of some of these
rehabilitated bogs and fens as a result of changes in snowfall/snowmelt regimes and
groundwater movement.The fen and bog community could be replaced by wet heath or
sod tussock grassland (Pickering and Armstrong 2003).
(ii) Sod Tussock Grasslands occur in sites of shallow soils or poor surface drainage and fill a
niche between the tall alpine herbfield on drier soils and the permanently moist to wet
groundwater communities.With increased temperatures, the sod tussock grasslands
could be colonised by tall alpine herbfield species and contribute to an increased area
of the most extensive community currently occurring in the alpine zone: the tall alpine
herbfield (Good 1998a).The sod tussock grassland on the other hand could colonise
other sites as noted above.
(iii) Short Alpine Herbfield occurs in cold wet sites immediately below the bottom edge of
snowpatches where cold snowmelt flows provide for permanently saturated soils and
continuous cold runoff flows over the cold-water tolerant species. The area of short alpine
herbfield was greatly reduced under the long-term pressure of domestic stock grazing
and has never recovered to the full extent of its identifiable original area.
Over the past 10 years the number of species in the short alpine herbfield areas has
declined and some species have been lost altogether from several sites (Good,
unpublished data). Several previously large short alpine herbfield sites have been
colonised by tall alpine herbfield, indicating that the longevity of snowpatches has
already declined possibly due to changes in snowpatch distribution, depth or area.
Very minor increases in mean temperatures predictably lead to an increase in the rate of
loss of the short alpine herbfield to the extent that short alpine herbfield could disappear
as a unique functioning plant community.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND FLORA 25
(iv) Windswept Feldmark is the plant community occupying the smallest area in the Alps –
less than one percent of the alpine zone (Good 1992; Costin et al 2000).The feldmark
community occurs in the most exposed windswept scols of the main range of the Snowy
Mountains, where the prevailing strong winds continually blow away any snow cover.
The plant species in the community are well adapted to the continual wind ablation and
extreme exposure to frosts in winter and high radiation levels in summer. Increases in
mean temperature may not directly affect the community but changes in snow cover and
rainfall may affect the community.
(v) The treeline is defined by the altitudinal level where the energy resources available limits
the growth of trees – around the world this altitudinal position is at the 10 ºC mean
maximum summer temperature level (Slatyer 1976; 1978; 1989).Increases in global
warming will raise this altitudinal level and increase the potential for the treeline to rise.
The response of the snowgums (Eucalyptus niphophila) will be very slow due to the
extreme weather conditions that prevail against recruitment at the treeline, hence the
upward altitudinal movement of the treeline will not be an early indicator of climate
change/global warming.Identifiable changes in the treeline as a response would not
be expected for up to 100 years or more.
POTENTIAL IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON OTHER
ALPINE AND SUBALPINE AREAS IN AUSTRALIA
Plant communities similar or identical to those occupying the main alpine region of
Kosciuszko National Park, as well as other plant communities,occur in the alpine and
subalpine regions of Tasmania and Victoria (Costin 1954; McDougall 1982;Kirkpatrick 1989;
Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998, 1999;Costin et al.2000). Climatic conditions appear to be the
primary factors associated with distribution of the different vegetation types in all of these
regions (Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998).Therefore, it is possible that climate change could alter
the pattern and distribution of plant communities in all alpine areas in Australia and may
involve reductions in long- lasting snow-patches and other factors determining the distribution
of some specialised plant communities (Ashton and Williams 1989;Atkin and Collier 1992;
Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998, 1999;Venn 2001).However,alpine regions in Australia vary in
total area, altitudinal range,current patterns of snow cover, composition of communities and
existing intensities and types of human impacts (McDougall 1982; Ashton and Williams 1989;
Costin 1989; Kirkpatrick 1989,1997; Good 1992;Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998, 1999; Costin et al.
2000; Venn 2001), so the overall patterns may be very different in each region. However,it is
clear that reductions in the duration of snow cover are likely to affect all of the alpine regions
in Australia.
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
26
LIMITATIONS IMPOSED BY CURRENT
UNDERSTANDING OF THE ALPINE ENVIRONMENT
This study has intentionally examined the more direct responses of vegetation communities
to primary climatic factors for two reasons.Firstly,it appears that climate is a crucial factor
determining the distribution of the communities, with edaphic,topographic and biotic factors
also important, but often broadly correlated with climatic variables (Costin 1954;Atkin and
Collier 1992; Kirkpatrick and Bridle 1998;Körner 1999). Summer temperatures, rainfall, duration
of snow cover and low temperatures in winter have all been proposed as defining factors for
alpine communities in Kosciuszko National Park and other alpine areas (Costin 1954;Carr and
Turner 1959;Wimbush and Costin 1979; Ashton and Williams 1989;Atkin and Collier 1992;
Good 1992; Kirkpatrick and Bridle,1998; Clarke and Martin 1999;Venn 2001).Therefore,
changes in these variables are likely to alter the ecology of the Kosciuszko alpine ecosystem.
The second reason for the focus on physical,and specifically climatic factors, rather than biotic
factors, is that information about biotic interactions at the community level is limited for the
Australian Alps. For example, the composition and location of different soil biota has been
proposed as an important factor affecting vegetation changes in alpine communities in
response to climate change. Due to the limited information available about the role of soil
biota in the ecosystem, it is difficult to speculate about the possible effects of climatically
induced changes on the soil biota
Although a little more is known about the role of insects and other invertebrate animals in
the alpine zone, particularly with respect to herbivory and pollination (Carr and Turner 1959;
Inouye and Pyke 1988; Ashton and Williams 1989;Wilson 1994; Green and Osborne 1994;
Pickering 1997; Stock 1999;Stock and Pickering 2002), the extent of the information is still
inadequate for more detailed predictions.Therefore,it is clear that a better understanding of
the potential impacts of climate change on this important and fragile ecosystem requires
active research into the current ecology of this system.The research initiated in this project,
will address the soil fauna and the soil surface invertebrates and the impacts climate change
may have on species composition and distribution,as well as the activity levels of the fauna
under different soil temperature regimes, vegetative cover and plant species composition.
Photo: Colin Totterdell
CLIMATE CHANGE,TOURISM AND
ASSOCIATED IMPACTS ON THE
NATIVE BIOTA
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
28
In the Australian Alps, tourism and recreation is one of the largest land uses and greatly
contributes to the regional economic base. However, tourism and recreation also has
considerable adverse environmental impacts and is likely to interact with climate change,
producing synergistic effects/impacts on the biota greater than that of either alone (Buckley
et al.2000; Scherrer and Pickering 2001). It has been recognised that research must not only
focus on climate change impacts,but also recognise and examine interactions of predicted
global warming and other factors that may negatively affect biota (Root et al.2003).
TOURISM IN AUSTRALIAN SNOW COUNTRY
Although Australia is large in area and its population heavily urbanised,the area of ‘snow-
country’is disproportionately very small. The largest cities are close to the mountains and
therefore the snow country is accessible to much of the population.There are annually
more than 1.5 million visitors to the Australian Alps from a population of approximately
20 million (DNRE 2002; Mules 2002;Worboys and Pickering 2002;Pickering unpublished data).
Ski tourism is now one of the principal economic activities in the Australian snow country,
having outstripped other industries such as grazing and forestry (DNRE 2002;Young 2002).
The ski industry contributes around $268m in Victoria and $300m in NSW to the local and
national economy (DNRE 2002; Mules 2002).But tourism in the Australian Alps is more than
just ski tourism/recreation.Until the mid-1980s, most visitors to the Australian Alps arrived
during the winter months, with around 80% involved in skiing (Good 1992;Mackay 1983;
Mackay and Alcock 1987;Virtanen 1993). More recently, however,the growth in winter activities
has levelled off through saturation of the limited skiable snowfields and resort facilities,as
well as the popularity of other activities (DNRE 2002). A few other winter activities such as
snowboarding and self-sufficient winter wilderness touring have increased (König 1998a and
1998b). In addition, there has been a large increase in summer visitation rates,with more
visitors coming in the non-snow period (DNRE 2002; Mules 2001). Most summer visitors are
engaged in bushwalking/hiking, car touring/sightseeing, nature appreciation,camping,
fishing, four wheel driving, mountain bike riding, and horse riding (Mules 2002;Worboys
and Pickering 2002a).These changes are broadening the environmental impacts of summer
recreational activities (Buckley et al.2000).
INTERACTION BETWEEN CLIMATE CHANGE AND
TOURISM
Current climate prediction models indicate a substantial reduction in the total area covered by
snow and a substantial reduction in the duration of snow cover in many areas, including the
ski resorts (Whetton 1998; DNRE 2002; Hennessy et al.2000).Such reductions in snow cover
and duration are likely to have a large impact on winter tourism in the Australian Alps. Poor
snow seasons in the past have resulted in dramatic declines in visitation and hence incomes
for resorts and associated commercial activities (Keage,1990; König 1998a and 1998b; DNRE
2002). Surveys of people currently visiting resorts to ski or snowboard indicate that if snow
cover declines, the majority would either give up skiing,ski overseas, or ski in Australia less
often (König 1998b and 1998b).Overseas, similar issues regarding reduced snow cover and its
impact on tourism, particularly at ski resorts, have been highlighted by König and Abegg
(1997) and Elsasser et al.(2000).
CLIMATE CHANGE,TOURISM AND ASSOCIATED IMPACTS ON THE NATIVE BIOTA 29
The warming of the spring and autumn weather conditions,however,will provide a wider
window of opportunity for non-snow-based tourism and recreation with a consequent
increase in the non-winter visitor numbers and impact on the vegetation, soils and native
animal populations (Buckley et al.2000; DNRE 2002;Worboys and Pickering 2002a).Visitor
activities are also likely to change as ski-resorts diversify and focus more on activities such as
conferences,education and health tourism, as well as on adventure sports (Keage 1990;
Koning 1998; Buckley et al.2002; DNRE 2002;Worboys and Pickering 2002a).These changes
in tourism activities, timing and intensity, together with climate change,will also change the
types and intensity of tourism impacts on the biota.
For example,some of the direct impacts of tourism in the Australian Alps include compaction
of soil, erosion,trampling of vegetation, urine and faecal contamination of waterways,
disturbance to wildlife, noise pollution,and increased feral animal activity (Edwards 1977;
Keane et al.1979; Hardie 1993;Virtanen 1993; Good and Grenier 1994;Good 1995; CDT 1997;
Parr Smith and Polley 1998;Arkle 2000; Buckley et al.2000; Scherrer and Pickering 2001;
Worboys and Pickering 2002b;Pickering et al.2003a).The infrastructure provided for some
tourism and recreational activities,including walking tracks and huts, are contributing to
impacts such as compaction of soil, clearing of vegetation,the introduction of alien plants,
leaching of nutrients into adjacent areas,and visual impacts (Virtanen 1993; Good and Grenier
1994; Johnston and Pickering 2001;Pickering et al.2003a,2003b).
To highlight the potential negative effects that are predicted to arise from climate change
together with the impacts from increasing visitor numbers and recreational activities,two
significant tourism-impact scenarios have been examined. First,we examine the impact of
increasing levels of snow manipulation by ski-resorts operators to ameliorate the impact of
poor snow years that will result from global warming. Second,we examine the impact of
predicted climate change on the abundance and diversity of weeds in the Australian Alps.
SNOW MANIPULATION AS A RESPONSE TO REDUCED
SNOW COVER AND ITS IMPACTS ON THE BIOTA
Snow manipulation techniques and other tourism activities and infrastructure have, and will
continue to have, important direct and indirect negative effects on the natural environment,
particularly as they predominately occur in high conservation environments such as alpine
national parks (Buckley et al.2000; Pickering and Hill 2003).
Already,as a response to the less consistent snow conditions which are the result of the
slight increases in mean temperatures (Green pers com), there has been strong competition
between resorts for a share of the tourism market based on the quality of the snow cover
they provide (Keage 1990;PBPL 1997; König 1998a and 1998b;DNRE 2002). This has resulted
in the expenditure of considerable effort and money on improving the quality and extent
of snow cover at resorts (PBPL 1997; NPWS 1998a,b;DNRE 2002; Pickering and Hill 2003).
With decreasing snow cover and increasing temperatures predicted, there is likely to be even
further reliance on snow manipulation techniques to maintain an adequate snow cover by
resorts in Australia and overseas (König and Abegg 1997; Elsasser et al.2000; DNRE 2002;
Hennesy et al.2002). Predictions for climatic change at resorts in the Australian Alps indicate
that there will be dramatic changes in the duration and depth of natural snow cover
(Whetton 2002).
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
30
Traditionally resorts have improved snow conditions by slope grooming during the summer
and snow grooming and snow harvesting in winter (Pickering and Hill 2003).Slope grooming
in summer alters the vegetation, soils and topography on major ski runs to improve the
quality of the snow pack in winter (Keane et al.1980; Graham-Higgs and Associates 1993;
a,b,c, 1994).In addition, resorts groom much of the snow on downhill skiable areas to ensure a
durable and even cover (Keane et al.1980). Snow harvesting from snow patches (snowdrifts)
away from the ski slopes also contributes to snow depth changes and the longevity of the
source snowpatches.This contributes to changes in environmental conditions for the native
biota under the source snowpatch and at the deposition sites. More recently, snow fences and
other artificial structures have been used to reduce wind scour and accumulate snow in
specified areas (König 1998b;PBPL 1997).
The introduction of artificial snow-making technology to nearly all large-scale downhill skiing
resorts in Australia in the 1980s accelerated the impacts of changed snow conditions (Grenier
1992; Pickering and Hill 2003).Snow-making involves delivering pressurised water onto ski
slopes during periods of below freezing temperatures,often with the addition of protein
nucleators to promote ice crystal formation (O’Brien and Shepherd 1985;Brown 1997).
There has been little research to date in Australia on the impacts of snow manipulation on
sensitive subalpine and alpine communities and threatened species (Pickering and Hill 2003),
even though most ski-resorts are next to, or within,the National Parks. Research overseas,
however, indicates that snow manipulation results in a cascade of changes and impacts that
can negatively affect plant communities,fauna habitat, individual species of flora and fauna,
soils and soil biota, hydrological regimes, and contaminate ski areas with pathogens and weed
propagules (Baiderin 1983; Kattelmann 1985; Watson 1985; Mosimann 1985; Tsuyuzaki 1990,
1991; Tsuyuzaki and Hokkaido 1994; Urbanska et al.1999;Ruth-Balaganskaya 2000;Pickering
and Hill 2003).
IMPACTS OF SKI-SLOPE DEVELOPMENT
Initially,impacts arise from direct physical alteration of the terrain during ski-slope development
(clearing vegetation, removing rocks,installing drainage systems, importation of soil,seeding
areas etc) undertaken in the summer months. Environmental Impacts Statements (EISs)
prepared for development works within Australian ski-resorts list a series of direct impacts
of slope development and summer slope maintenance.These include changes in natural
appearance, soil compaction,soil erosion, and changes in plant species composition,
hydrology (groundwater and surface water regimes) and flooding. The most severe impacts
are found on slopes that have been subjected to the most intensive reshaping and smoothing
(slope grooming) (Keane et al.1980;Good and Grenier 1994; Good 1995).
Overseas studies also report a number of secondary impacts resulting from ski-slope
development and use. For example, the removal of natural vegetation decreases the water
holding capacity of soils and increases runoff during rain events, resulting in generally lower
soil moisture.These changes are reported to have dramatically changed the occurrence and
distribution of vegetation communities on the ski-slopes,surrounding areas and associated
valley floors,leading to major changes in plant community composition (Mosimann 1985;
Watson 1985). Other secondary impacts include changes in soil biota including mycorrhiza,
increased soil temperatures in summer, decreased temperatures in spring and autumn, and
drier conditions in summer (Mosimann 1985;Watson 1985). Even minimal slope grooming,
involving trimming and removing trees,has been shown to affect the ecology of the
CLIMATE CHANGE,TOURISM AND ASSOCIATED IMPACTS ON THE NATIVE BIOTA 31
understorey species in subalpine woodland areas. For example, decreasing the tree canopy
increases the amount of light reaching the understorey,which in turn influences the
composition of plant communities (Keane et al.1980;Tappeiner and Cernusca 1989).
In the Australian Alps,ski-slopes have been cleared of snowgums except for small isolated
islands of trees retained for habitat maintenance and to assist snow accumulation.
Observations of these remnant islands of trees indicate that they are slowly declining as
the trees succumb to changes in the surface and groundwater regimes and changes in the
snow cover profile (Good,author obs.).
IMPACTS OF SNOW-GROOMING
The impacts of snow-grooming machines have been extensively studied in overseas subalpine
and alpine areas, and results indicate that snow-grooming causes significant degradation in
the vegetation and soils of the ski-slopes (Fahey and Wardle 1998).The impacts occur as (i),
impacts that are the direct consequence of physical damage by vehicles on the vegetation
and soils; and (ii),impacts as a result of snow compaction and redistribution.
The majority of studies have also examined the impacts of oversnow vehicle use on vegetation,
with most damage occurring when little or no snow cover is present (i.e. at the beginning or
end of the season). Under these conditions there is increased mechanical damage to
vegetation, greater compaction of vegetation and soil, and decreased water infiltration rates
into the soil resulting in increased bare ground and risk of soil erosion (Watson et al.1970;
Wanek 1971;Greller et al.1974; Baiderin 1980;Felix and Raynolds 1989). Changes to soil
chemistry were also observed with higher soil pH, depleted calcium,potassium and
phosphorus, and increased levels of nitrates and ammonium (Kevan et al.1995).The high
levels of disturbance were also noted to result in changes to species composition, such as the
replacement of mosses with sedges and prostrate shrubs with grasses, while all levels of
disturbance resulted in decreased vegetation cover (Emers et al.1995).
Increased snow compaction is a major objective of most snow-grooming operations, and
increased density and hardness of the snowpack generally occurs and has been widely
demonstrated (e.g Wanek 1971; Neumann and Merriam 1972; Baiderin 1980,1983; Kattelmann
1985; Racine and Ahlstrand 1991;Fahey and Wardle 1999b).Woody, erect species such as shrubs
and low trees are among the most susceptible to direct damage from snow compaction
(Emers et al.1995; Felix et al.1992; Forbe 1992).Herbs and grasses, by contrast, often die back
in winter,with buds often protected at or below the surface (Greller et al.1974).As a result
they are less likely to experience mechanical damage associated with snow compaction.
Changes in snowpack properties as a result of snow compaction also cause an array of
secondary impacts. Compaction increases the thermal conductivity of snow and reduces
insulation capacity. This has been shown to lead to reductions in soil temperatures with
increased frost penetration of the soil (Wanek 1971).This was found in overseas studies to
cause a five-to-seven fold reduction in soil temperatures and a seven-to-eleven fold increase
in frost penetration into the soil beneath compacted snow (Baiderin 1980,1983).
Flower and vegetative buds often occur along branches of woody plants and damage can
occur to meristematic tissue by the lower temperatures found in compacted snow.
Herbaceous species are also susceptible to freezing soils and changes in snowmelt patterns in
the spring. Studies overseas have found that secondary impacts of snow compaction include
decrease in the rate of organic material decomposition with decreased temperatures,
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
32
a reduction in the number of soil bacteria and fungi involved in nutrient recycling (Neumann
and Merriam 1972; Meyer 1993) and often oxygen depletion/deficiency in the soil (Newesely et
al.1993).
Changes in snow-pack characteristics can result in a later snowmelt in spring, thus decreasing
the length of the growing season (Neumann and Merriam 1972; Keddy et al.1979). For example,
snow retention can delay the onset of flowering, resulting in a shortened flowering season for
many plant populations (Baiderin 1983).This can cause changes in the composition of plant
communities, with the proportion of spring and summer flowering species declining as
autumn flowering species increase (Baiderin 1980). Delayed snowmelt has also been shown
to change soil carbon-nitrogen ratios (Walsh et al.1997). These types of changes have been
shown to differentially affect plant-growth characteristics and can alter the composition and
distribution of plant communities (Neumann and Merriam 1972; Masyk 1973;Felix et al.1992;
Forbes 1992).
The compaction of snow also eliminates the subniveal space (natural space between the
soil surface and bottom layer of the snowpack), restricting the movement of small
mammals under the snow (Baiderin 1983). This is particularly significant in the Australian
subalpine/alpine areas as the small mammal species remain active in the subniveal space
through the winter months,even though they are in a state of torpor (reduced metabolic
and body activity) (Green and Osborne 1994; Green 1988).
There has been little empirical research in Australia examining the effects of snow
manipulation on flora or fauna.Ski slope construction, slope grooming and snow grooming at
Perisher Valley have been found to have altered soil structure and composition (Cousins 1998;
Growcock 1999). A study of a super-groomed, revegetated ski slope has been observed as
having a thin mineral soil with minimal organic content,in contrast to the deep peat soils
found on similar undeveloped slopes.Vegetation on the ski slope was found to be dominated
by Carex species and to have a high percentage of introduced species. Most notable was the
absence of Sphagnum on the developed sites where it was previously dominant on the
undisturbed slope. As vegetation and peat soils had been removed from the ski slope, the
hydrology was also altered, with increased infiltration rates but lower water holding capacity
(Growcock 1999). This increased the erosion potential during snowmelt period. Conversely
peat soils and the associated vegetation on the undeveloped slopes protected those sites
from erosion (Wimbush and Costin 1985;Growcock 1999).
The indirect impacts of snow-grooming do not seem to have been specifically examined
in Australia, even though grooming occurs over large areas of resorts and secondary
environmental impacts appear to have important ecological implications for the
native vegetation.
CLIMATE CHANGE,TOURISM AND ASSOCIATED IMPACTS ON THE NATIVE BIOTA 33
IMPACTS OF SNOW-HARVESTING
To improve skiing opportunities, snow conditions (depth and distribution) are often increased
by snow-harvesting (i.e. stockpiling and redistributing snow).Overseas research has shown
that this often results in delayed plant development and growth retardation. Increased depth
also decreases the amount of light that penetrates snow and can delay germination of seeds
(Richardson and Salisbury 1977). Additionally some species,such as evergreen perennials,
biennials and winter annuals, continue photosynthesis under snow,a characteristic that may
be critical to their survival. As the changes in snow depth differentially affect plant species,
the composition of plant communities may be considerably modified (Richardson and
Salisbury 1977).
Increased snow depth has also been found overseas to delay the onset of snowmelt, with the
soil under deeper snow found to have reduced organic content, water content, nitrogen,
phosphorous and acidity (Stanton et al.1994). Species richness and total vegetation cover
were also noted to decrease in sites with delayed snowmelt (Stanton et al.1994).
ARTIFICIAL SNOW-MAKING
While it has been suggested that snow-making will result in unacceptable changes to flora
and water quality in the Australian Alps (Good and Grenier 1994;Good 1995), there have
been only one or two studies, that the authors are aware of, that have investigated the
composition and structure of artificially made snow. Cole and Hallam (1999) investigated
some effects of artificial snow,made with the snowmaking additive Snomax on alpine
vegetation. However, the study was largely limited to an examination of microbial differences
between leaf surfaces following cover with natural and artificial snow.While no changes in
microbial damage to vegetation were found,some of the conclusions on microbial damage
do not appear to be supported by their data (McDougall 2000).
It has been suggested that the chemical composition of artificial snowmelt water may
differentially affect growth characteristics of some ground cover species (Holaus and Parti
1993; Jones and Devarennes 1995), but this has not been evident as yet in the Australian Alps
(Good and Green, author obs.).Some species have been observed to be more abundant
adjacent to natural snow meltwater, while others preferred artificial snow meltwater
(Holaus and Parti 1993; Jones and Devarennes 1995).
THE INFLUENCE OF PREDICTED CLIMATE CHANGE
ON EXOTIC PLANT AND WEED OCCURRENCE
The native flora of the Australian Alps has been derived from three sources: Australian
lowland species adapted to alpine conditions; species from other alpine regions around the
world; and cosmopolitan species (Barlow 1988).A fourth, more recent,source of taxa has been
alien plants (Mallen 1986). Many of these alien plants are environmental weeds and pose a
serious threat to the ecology of the Australian Alps (Carr et al.1992).
The negative environmental impacts of alien plants include the displacement of native
species, modification of primary ecosystem functioning, and modification of disturbance
regimes and post-disturbance communities (Prieur-Richard and Lavorel 2000).Weed invasions
can also accelerate the rate of soil erosion,alter other geomorphic processes, alter
biogeochemical and hydrological cycles,alter fire regimes,prevent recruitment of native
species, and accelerate extinction rates (Hobbs 1989; Mooney and Drake 1989; Carr et al.1992).
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
34
Within the Kosciuszko alpine and subalpine zones above 1500 m, a total of 175 alien vascular
plant species have been recorded (Johnston and Pickering 2001).An examination of data from
only those surveys conducted in the last five years (Pearson 1997; Ingwerson 1999;Duncan
1994; McDougall and Appleby 2000) indicates 140 alien species are currently present in the Alps.
Currently species representing 41 families and 122 genera are recorded for the area (Johnston
and Pickering 2001).The number of species, genera and families varies between the States.
New South Wales, with the largest contiguous alpine and subalpine area has 165, the highest
number of recorded alien species.Victoria, with a slightly smaller area,has 117 plant species,
and only 10 species have been recorded for the small alpine and subalpine areas of the ACT,
although this is recognised as an underestimate due to the limited sampling of the area
(Johnston and Pickering 2001). Less than 50% of the total recorded number of alien plant
species currently occurs in the alpine zones. However,several species have extended their
distribution into the alpine zone in very recent years,such as the invasive weed yarrow
(Achillea millefolium). Pellet Clover (Trifolium ambiguum), originally introduced by the Soil
Conservation Service as a rehabilitation species after the removal of grazing, has over recent
years spread rapidly through much of the alpine area after remaining ‘dormant’ since the
1960s. The drier and warmer conditions experienced over recent years may have initiated the
surge in growth and distribution through effective flowering and seed set (Good,author obs).
Although these recent warmer and drier conditions may only be a short-term perturbation in
the mean long-term alpine/subalpine temperatures and precipitation, the response of several
alien plants indicates the way in which plants in the Australian Alps may respond to global
warming. It is interesting to note that mean summer temperature at the treeline on South
Ramshead in February (the warmest month and normally expected to be about 10ºC) has over
the past three years been in the order of 12.5 to 13ºC (Green, unpublished data).
Many alien plants are associated with specific types of land use in the Australian Alps.Based
on their location, alien plants are categorised in this study as ‘grazing weeds’,‘rehabilitation
weeds’,‘resort weeds’,and ‘roadside and path weeds’ (Johnston and Pickering 2001),with
many species associated with more than one type of land use.There are 136 species of alien
plants recorded along roadsides and paths in one national park alone (Mallen-Cooper 1990;
Pearson 1997).This type of disturbance could account for just under 80% of alien species
found in the Australian Alps (McDougall and Appleby 2000; Johnston and Pickering 2001).
The next largest group is the ‘resort weeds’, with 58% of species found in and around resort
buildings and other infrastructure.Without adequate control, roadside and resort weeds can
act as sources of propagules for dispersal into surrounding vegetation (Mallen-Cooper 1990).
Just over 20% of alien species already appear to be independent of the need for human
disturbance to provide suitable habitats,having become ‘naturalized aliens’ (Johnston and
Pickering 2001).
Photo: Colin Totterdell
CLIMATE CHANGE,TOURISM AND ASSOCIATED IMPACTS ON THE NATIVE BIOTA 35
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND TOURISM ON
WEED OCCURRENCE
Predicted climate change will directly contribute to an increase in the distribution and
diversity of alien species in the subalpine and alpine areas of the Australian Alps (Good 1998a;
Buckley et al.2000; Pickering and Armstrong 2003).As summer tourism and recreational
activities are increasing (Good 1992;Worboys and Pickering 2002a) with a commensurate
increase in additional support facilities, the weed problem will be further exacerbated (Usher
1988; Hodkinson and Thompson 1997;Pickering et al.2003b). Developers and conservation
organisations will have to make informed decisions about the appropriate levels of allowable
disturbance, and hence potential weed invasion, when considering the impacts of future
developments.
Decreasing native and alien plant diversity with increasing altitude is characteristic of many
alpine and subalpine areas including the Australian Alps (Mallen-Cooper 1990;Körner 1999;
Costin et al.2000). Where climatic conditions are the major limit on the upward expansion of
species, then the distribution and abundance of alien plants at a given altitude is likely to
increase if snow cover declines and average temperatures increase.
Evidence in support of this comes from experiments on the germination and establishment
of alien seed sown into natural plant communities in the Kosiuszko alpine zone. Species of
alien plants currently limited to subalpine areas were able to germinate and grow at higher
altitude, particularly following disturbance (Mallen-Cooper 1990).However,they were unable
to reproduce due to the severity of climatic conditions (Mallen-Cooper 1990).Therefore,
changes in climatic conditions,along with disturbance, are likely to enhance the
establishment and spread of these and other weeds.
SUMMARY OF PREDICTED IMPACTS OF CLIMATE
CHANGES ON BIOTA
Climate change is the major threat to the natural ecosystems in the Australian Alps and
predictably will result in changes in the occurrence and distribution of plant communities,
sensitive species and the functionality of several communities,e.g. groundwater communities.
The occurrence and distribution of the alpine/subalpine native fauna will be directly affected
by the changes in distribution and structural components of the plant communities,
particularly for the rare and sensitive small mammals dependent on particular habitat(s) for
survival through the extremes of winter.
The degree and extent of the impacts of global warming on the native biota are impossible to
quantify based on the current available data,but studies have been initiated as part of this
project to fill the knowledge gaps.
The impacts of climate change, particularly that of global warming, will be numerous and will,
or may, be exacerbated by the public responses (tourism and recreational activities) to
consequent changes to snow conditions and landscape changes (vegetation types).Much of
the alpine zone is still recovering from the disturbance impacts of a century of domestic stock
grazing, while an increasing demand for recreation infrastructure are intensifying the
disturbance factors in the ski-village areas. However,the impacts of grazing and tourism have
been, or can be managed by, altering the focus of visitors, their expectations and behaviour, or
by providing alternative experiences within the alpine parks.This will, however,be a challenge
for the land managers.The same approach will not work for climate change. Predicting the
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
36
magnitude of the changes in occurrence and distribution of plant and animal habitats will be
crucial to the maintenance of representative areas of each vegetation/animal habitat area.
This will involve the prediction of what vegetation communities may benefit and those that
will be negatively affected,what communities or species will replace an existing
community(ies), and what will be the relative areas of each.Tall alpine herbfield may replace
short alpine herbfield and sod-tussock grassland, but tall alpine herbfields could also be
replaced by shrubland (heaths) where further drying of the alpine humus soils occurs.
Similarly,the very small feldmark communities could extend their area of occurrence by
colonising areas that are, or will become, at greater risk of erosion.
Impacts of global warming will be detrimental to some faunal species but beneficial to
others. The major impact of global warming on the alpine fauna initially is expected to be as a
result of alterations to the snowpack. A slowly melting snowpack provides water for animal
activity well into the summer – regular water that cannot be provided by infrequent summer
rains. Snow itself provides protection for subnivean animals against winter cold and a barrier
against predators. Animals dependent upon snow for protection or for excluding less well-
adapted species will therefore be disadvantaged.Phytophagous animals (mainly insects in the
alpine zone), however,are dependent upon the amount of primary productivity.This is quite
low in alpine areas, with only deserts being lower because of the reduced period of the year
available for growth, low temperatures and occasional drought stress.These may increase
with global warming. The complexity of changes and interactions make it difficult to predict
in which way the ecosystem will shift.What is known, however, is that there will be an
increased altitudinal distribution of many species (possibly resulting in the loss of some
endemic forms) and an earlier return to the mountains of migratory forms.
The threat from climate change is global in nature,with human activity causing the change
also on a global scale. Therefore, an organisation such as the NSW National Parks and Wildlife
Service, which has a mandate to protect biodiversity within the park, may increasingly have to
address the impacts of climate change on the natural environment.
Having recognised the importance of climatic warming in the Australian Alps,particularly
in the alpine zone, a series of field evaluations of predictions have been established within
Kosciuszko National Park. The aim of these evaluations is to establish a comprehensive
monitoring program of the impacts of global warming on winter snow and ice conditions
and summer mean temperatures,and how these may/will affect the distribution of plant
communities/animal habitats,animal populations and the survival of rare plant and
animal species.
Further, there is collaboration with international mountain climate change studies such as
the GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) and the Global
Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA).GLORIA is an international coordinated research
initiative that monitors the impact of climate change on mountain biota around the world
(Pauli et al.2001).This involves establishing long-term observation networks with
standardised monitoring settings in all major mountain systems,including five in
Australia (see www.gloria.ac.at).
REFERENCES
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
38
Arkle, P 2000,Tourism in the summit area of Mt Kosciuszko: An assessment of tourist interaction
and impact,Honours Thesis,Department of Geography,Australian National University, Canberra.
Ashton, DH and Williams,RJ 1989, ‘Dynamics of sub-alpine vegetation in the Victorian region’,
Good,R. (ed), The Scientific Significance of the Australian Alps,Australian Alps Liaison
Committee,Canberra, pp.143–168.
Atkin, OK and Collier,DE 1992,‘Relationship between soil nitrogen and floristic variation in late
snow areas of the Kosciuszko alpine region, Australian Journal of Botany 40,pp. 139–149.
Baiderin, VV 1980,‘Experimental modelling of ecological consequences of winter recreations’,
Soviet Journal of Ecology 11,pp. 140–146.
Baiderin, VV 1983,‘Winter recreation and subnivean plant development’, Soviet Journal of
Ecology 13, pp.287–291.
Barlow,BA 1988, The Alpine Flora:Autochthones and Peregrines,First Fenner Conference on the
Environment, Australian Alps Liaison Committee, Canberra.
Bennett, AF 1995,‘Eastern Grey Kangaroo’, Menkhorst,PW (ed.), Mammals of Victoria,Oxford
University Press,Melbourne, pp. 138–140.
Bouma,WJ, Pearman, GI and Manning, MR 1996,Greenhouse – Coping with change,CSIRO,
Melbourne.
Brereton, R,Bennett, S and Mansergh,I 1995, ‘Enhanced greenhouse climate change and its
potential effect on selected fauna of south-eastern Australia:a trend analysis’,Biological
Conservation 72,pp. 339–354.
Briggs, BG 1986,‘Alpine Ranunculi of the Kosciuszko Plateau: Habitat change and
hybridisation’, Barlow, BA (ed.), Flora and Fauna of Alpine Australia CSIRO,Melbourne,
pp.401–412.
Brown, R 1997, ‘Man made snow’, Scientific American Working knowledge January 1997.
http://www.sciam.com/0197issue0197working.html.
Brown, JAJ and Millner, FC 1989,‘Aspects of the meteorology and hydrology of the Australian
Alps’, Good,R (ed.), The Scientific Significance of the Australian Alps,Australian Alps Liaison
Committee,Canberra, pp.297–329.
Bryant,WG 1971,‘Deterioration of vegetation and erosion in the Guthega catchment area,
Snowy Mountains, NSW’, Journal of the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales 27,pp. 62–81.
Buckley,RC, Pickering, CM and Warnken, J 2000,‘Environmental management for alpine
tourism and resorts in Australia’, Goode,PM, Price,MF and Zimmermann, FM (eds),Tourism
and Development in Mountain Regions,CABI Publishing, New York,pp. 27–46.
Busby,JR 1988,‘Potential impacts of climate change on Australia’s flora and fauna’, Pearman,
GI (ed.), Greenhouse:Planning for Climate Change,pp. 387–398.
Carr,SGM and Turner,JS 1959,‘The ecology of the Bogong High Plains: The environmental
factors and the grassland communities’, Australian Journal of Botany 7, pp. 12–33.
Carr,GW, Yugovic, JV and Robinson, KE 1992,Environmental Weed Invasions in Victoria:
Conservation and Management Implications,Department of Conservation and Environment
and Ecological Horticulture, Clifton Hill, Victoria.
REFERENCES 39
Commonwealth Department of Tourism (CDT) 1997, Repairing the Roof of Australia – Ecotourism
Infrastructure in Kosciuszko National Park,Commonwealth Department of Tourism, Canberra.
Clarke, PJ and Martin, ARH 1999,‘Sphagnum peatlands of Kosciuszko National Park in relation
to altitude, time and disturbance’, Australian Journal of Botany 47,pp. 519–536.
Climate Impact Group (CIG)1996, Climate Change Scenarios for the Australian Region CIG,
CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research,Melbourne.
Cole, FM and Hallam,ND 1999, A Report on the Effect of Artificial Snow Making on the
Vegetation, Soil and Water of Thredbo and Perisher Valley, NSW 1999–2000,Report to New
South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
Costin, AB 1954, A Study of the Ecosystems of the Monaro Region of New South Wales with
Special Reference to Soil Erosion,Government Printer, Sydney.
Costin, AB 1957, ‘The high mountain vegetation of Australia’, Australian Journal of Botany 5,
pp.173–189.
Costin, AB 1958,‘The Grazing Factor and the Maintenance of Catchment Values in the
Australian Alps’, Division of Plant Industry Technical Paper No.10,CSIRO,Melbourne.
Costin, AB 1989,‘The Alps in a global perspective’,Good, R (ed.), The Scientific Significance of
the Australian Alps,The Australian Alps National Parks Liaison Committee, Canberra, pp.7–19.
Costin, AB,Wimbush, DJ,Kerr, D and Gay, LW 1959,‘Studies in Catchment Hydrology in the
Australian Alps:Trends in soils and vegetation’, Division of Plant Industry Technical Paper No.13,
CSIRO,Canberra.
Costin, AB,Wimbush, DJ,Barrow,MD and Lake, P 1969,‘Development of soil and vegetation
climaxes in the Mount Kosciusko area,Australia’, Vegetatio 18, pp.273–288.
Costin, AB, Gray, M, Totterdell, CJ and Wimbush,DJ 2000,Kosciusko Alpine Flora,Collins,
Melbourne.
Cousins,K, 1998,An Assessment of Soil Disturbance in Two Catchments, Kosciuszko National
Park,Through Organic Horizon Characteristics,Honours Thesis, School of Resource
Management and Environmental Science, Australian National University, Canberra.
Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) 2002, Alpine Resorts 2020
Discussion Paper,Department of Natural Resources and Environment, State Government of
Victoria,Melbourne.
Dickman, CR,Green, K, Carron, PL,Happold, DCD and Osborne,WS 1983,‘Coexistence,
convergence and competition among Antechinus (Marsupialia) in the Australian high country’,
Proceedings, Ecological Society of Australia 12,pp. 79–99.
Dickman, CR,McKechnie, CA 1985,‘A survey of the mammals of Mount Royal and Barrington
Tops, New South Wales’, Australian Journal of Zoology 21,pp. 513–543.
Duncan,A. 1994. Guide to the Native Ferns, Confiers and Flowering Plants in Koscisuzko National
Park.Unpublished Report for NSW NPWS and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
Dunsmore, JD 1974,‘The rabbit in subalpine south-eastern Australia:Population structure and
productivity’,Australian Journal of Wildlife Research 1,pp. 17–26.
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
40
Edwards, IJ 1977,‘The ecological impact of pedestrian traffic on alpine vegetation in Kosciusko
National Park’, Australian Forestry 40,pp. 108–120.
Elsasser,H, Burki,R and Abegg, B 2000,‘Climate change and snow reliability’, Petermanns
Geographische Mitteilungen,144, pp.34–41. (Abstract in English).
Emers, M,Jorgenson, JC and Raynolds, MK 1995,‘Response of arctic tundra plant communities
to winter vehicle disturbance’, Canadian Journal of Botany 73, pp.905–917.
Fahey, B and Wardle,K 1998, Likely Impacts of Snow Grooming and Related Activities in the West
Otago Ski Fields,Department of Conservation,Wellington,New Zealand.
Felix, NA and Raynolds, MK 1989,‘The effects of winter seismic trails on Tundra vegetation in
northeastern Alaska, USA’,Arctic and Alpine Research 21,pp. 188–202.
Felix, NA,Raynolds,MK, Jorgenson, JC and DuBois, KE 1992,‘Resistance and resilience of tundra
plant communities to disturbance by winter seismic vehicles’, Arctic and Alpine Research 24,
pp.69–77.
Forbes, BC 1992,‘Tundra disturbance studies, I:Long term effects of vehicle disturbance on
species richness and biomass’, Environmental Conservation 19,pp. 48–58.
Gall, BC,and Longmore, NW 1978,‘Avifauna of the Thredbo valley, Kosciusko National Park’,
Emu 78,pp. 189–196.
Galloway, RW 1988,‘The potential impact of climate change on Australian ski fields’,Pearmen,
GI (ed.), Greenhouse:Planning for Climate Change,CSIRO,Melbourne.
Gifford,RM 1988,‘Interactions with vegetation’, Pearman, GI (ed.),Greenhouse – Planning for
Climate Change,CSIRO,Melbourne, pp.752.
Gifford,RM 1991, Plants in the global greenhouse Bogong 12,pp. 20–22.
Good, RB 1976,‘Contrived Regeneration of Alpine Herbfields’, Proceedings of Congress of the
Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Hobart ANZAAS,
Canberra.
Good, RB 1992,Kosciusko Heritage,New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.
Good, R 1995,‘Ecologically sustainable development in the Australian Alps’, Mountain Research
and Development 15, pp.251–258.
Good, RB 1998a,‘The impacts of snow regimes on the distribution of alpine vegetation’, Green,
K (ed.), Snow:A Natural History; An Uncertain Future,Australian Alps Liaison Committee,
Canberra,pp. 98–112.
Good, RB 1998b,‘Changes in fire regimes and extent of fires in Australia and their contribution
to atmospheric pollutants’, Paper presented to Wengen 98 Conference on Biomass Burning
and Global Warming, Wengen, Switzerland.
Good, RB 1999,‘Rehabilitation and revegetation of the Kosciuszko summit area following the
removal of grazing – An historic review’,Proceedings of 3rd Annual Conference of Australian
Network for Plant Conservation,ANPC,Canberra.
Good, RB and Grenier, P 1994,‘Some environmental impacts of recreation in the Australian
Alps’,Australian Parks and Recreation Summer: pp. 20–26.
REFERENCES 41
Graham-Higgs, N and Associates 1993a, Proposed Tree Removal from Eyre and Happy Valley
T-bar Ski Areas:Review of Environmental Factors,Report prepared for Kosciusko Alpine Resorts
Pty Ltd.
Graham-Higgs, N and Associates 1993b, Proposed Summer Slope Grooming Works – Perisher
Valley: Review of Environmental Factors,Report prepared for Kosciusko Alpine Resorts Pty Ltd.
Graham-Higgs, N and Associates 1993c, Proposal for the Provision of Snow Making Facilities at
Charlotte Pass Village:Review of Environmental Factors,Report prepared for Kosciusko Alpine
Resorts Pty Ltd.
Graham-Higgs, N and Associates 1994, Proposed summer slope grooming works – Perisher
Valley stage 11,Report prepared for Kosciusko Alpine Resorts Pty Ltd.
Green, K 1988,‘A Study of Antechinus swainsonii and Antechinus stuartii and their prey in the
Snowy Mountains’ PhD thesis, Zoology Department,Australian National University, Canberra
Green, K 1998,(ed.) Snow,A Natural History: An Uncertain Future,Australian Alps Liaison
Committee,Canberra.
Green, K 2000, A Survey of the Broad-toothed Rat at Barrington Tops,Unpublished Report to
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
Green, K and Osborne,WS 1981,‘The diet of foxes, Vulpes vulpes (L) in relation to abundance of
prey above the winter snowline in New South Wales’, Australian Wildlife Research 8,pp. 349–60.
Green, K.and Osborne, WS 1994,Wildlife of the Australian Snow-Country Reed,Sydney.
Green, K and Osborne,WS 1998,‘Snow as a selecting force on the alpine fauna’, Green K (ed.)
Snow: A Natural History; An Uncertain Future,Australian Alps Liaison Committee,
Canberra/Surrey Beatty & Sons, Sydney, pp. 141–164.
Green, K and Pickering, CM 2002,A scenario for mammal and bird diversity in the Australian
Snowy Mountains in relation to climate change’, C Körner & EM Spehn (eds), Mountain
Biodiversity: A Global Assessment,Parthenon Publishing, London,pp. 241–249.
Greller,AM, Goldstein,M and Marcus, L 1974, ‘Snowmobile impact on three alpine tundra plant
communities’,Environmental Conservation 1(2),pp.101–110.
Grenier,P 1992,‘Skiing in the Australian Alps: Development and Conflict’ Good,R and Grenier
(eds),The Australian Alps,Revue de Geographie Alpine, Grenoble,France, pp.227–225.
Growcock, A 1999,Ski Industry Development in Kosciuszko National Park: A Comparison of Slope
Hydrology,Graduate Diploma in Science (Forestry), Australian National University, Canberra.
Halpin, MA,Bissonette, JA 1988,‘Influence of snow depth on prey availability and habitat use
by red fox’, Canadian Journal of Zoology 66,pp. 587–592.
Hamilton, LS 1993,‘Global priority: What makes mountains so special’, Mckay, J,Celebrating
Mountains: Proceedings of an International Year of the Mountains Conference Australian Alps
Liaison Committee, Canberra, pp.5–8.
Hardie, M 1993,Measuring bushwalking and camping impacts – Mount Bogong, Victoria,
National Parks and Public Land Division,Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,
Melbourne,Victoria.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
42
Hennesy,KJ,Whetton, PH, Smith,IN, Bathols,JM, Hutchinson, MF and Sharples, JJ 2002,Climate
change impacts on snow conditions in Australia,CSIRO,CRES, First Interim Report,Canberra.
Hobbs, RJ 1989,‘The nature and effects of disturbance relative to invasions’, Drake, JA, Mooney,
F, di Castri, F Kruger, FJ,Rejmanekand, M and Williamson, M (eds),Biological Invasions: a Global
Perspective,SCOPE, John Wiley and Sons,pp. 389–405.
Hodkinson, DJ and Thompson, K 1997, “Plant dispersal – the role of man’, Journal of Applied
Ecology,24(6), pp.1484–1496.
Holaus, K and Parti, C 1993,Artificial snow covering of permanent meadows – effects of plant
composition, biomass accumulation and soil structure’, Verhandlungen – Gesellschaft fur
Okalogie 23, pp.269–276.
Independent Scientific Committee (ISC)2002, An Assessment of Kosciuszko National Park
Values,Interim Report of the Independent Scientific Committee, New South Wales National
Parks and Wildlife Service, Queanbeyan.
Ingwersen,F,1999, Study of Vascular Plants in Treeless and Timbered Sites, Naas-Gudgeby
Catchment,ACT, Unpublished Report.
Inouye, DW and Pyke, GH 1988,‘Pollination biology in the Snowy Mountains of Australia:
Comparisons with montane Colorado, USA’, Australian Journal of Ecology 13,pp. 101–210.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001,‘Climate Change 2001:The Scientific Basis’,
(eds) Houghton, JT,Meira Filho,LG, Callander, BA, Harris,N, Kattenberg, A and Varney,SK,
Cambridge University Press,Cambridge.
Johnston, FM and Pickering, CM 2001,Alien plants in the Australian Alps’, Mountain Research
and Development 21,pp. 284–291.
Jones, HG and Devarennes, G 1995,‘The chemistry of artificial snow and its influence on
germination of mountain flora’, Biogeochemistry of seasonally snow covered catchments 228,
pp.355–360.
Kattelmann, R 1985,‘Snow management at ski areas: hydrological effects’, Watershed
Management in the Eighties,Proceedings of a symposium of the American Society of Civil
Engineers,Colorado.
Keage,P 1990,‘Skiing into the Greenhouse’, Trees and Natural Resources 32,pp. 15–18.
Keane,PA 1977,‘Native species for soil conservation in the Alps’, Journal of the New South Wales
Soil Conservation Service 33,pp. 200–217.
Keane,PA,Wild, AER and Rogers, JH 1979,‘Trampling and erosion in alpine country’, Journal of
the New South Wales Soil Conservation Service 35,pp. 7–12.
Keane,PA,Wild AER and Rogers,JH, 1980,‘Soil conservation on the ski slopes’,Journal of the
New South Wales Soil Conservation Service 36,pp. 6–15.
Keddy, PA, Spavold, AJ and Keddy, CJ 1979,‘Snowmobile impact on old field and marsh
vegetation in Nova Scotia,Canada: an experimental study’, Environmental Management 3,
pp.409–414.
Photo: Roger Good,NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
REFERENCES 43
Kevan, PG, Forbes, BC,Kevan,SM and Behan-Pelleiter,V 1995,‘Vehicle tracks on high Arctic
tundra: their effects on the soil, vegetation,and soil arthropods’,Journal of Applied Ecology 32,
pp.655–667.
Kirkpatrick, JB 1989,‘The comparative ecology of mainland Australia and Tasmanian alpine
vegetation’, Good,R (ed.), The Scientific Significance of the Australian Alps,Australian Alps
Liaison Committee, Canberra, pp.127–142.
Kirkpatrick, J 1997, Alpine Tasmania: An illustrated guide to the flora and vegetation,Oxford
University Press,Melbourne.
Kirkpatrick, JB and Bridle,KL 1998, ‘Environmental relationships of floristic variation in the
alpine vegetation of southeast Australia’, Journal of Vegetation Science 9,pp.251–260.
Kirkpatrick, JB and Bridle,KL 1999, ‘Environment and floristics of ten Australian alpine
vegetation formations’, Australian Journal of Botany 47, pp. 1–21.
König, U 1998a,‘Climate change and tourism: investigations into the decision making process
of skiers in the Australian ski fields’, Pacific Tourism Review 2,pp. 83–90.
König, U 1998b,‘Climate change and the Australian ski industry’,Green, K (ed.),Snow,A Natural
History; An Uncertain Future, Australian Alps Liaison Committee, Canberra, pp.207–223.
König, U,Abegg, B 1997,‘Impact of climate change on winter tourism in the Swiss Alps’, Journal
of Sustainable Tourism 5, pp.46–58.
Körner C 1999,Alpine Plant Life,Springer,Berlin.
Lazarides, M,Cowley, K and Hohnen,P 1997,Handbook of Australian Weeds,CSIRO,Canberra.
Longmore,W 1973,‘Birds of the alpine region, Kosciusko National Park’, Australian Birds 8,
pp.33–35.
Mackay, J 1983,‘Summit Walking Track Investigations’, New South Wales National Parks and
Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
Mackay, J and Alcock,A 1987,Growth in Recreation in the Kosciuszko National Park,
Unpublished report, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service,Jindabyne.
Mallen, J 1986,‘Introduced vascular plants in the high altitude and high latitude areas of
Australasia, with particular reference to the Kosciusko alpine area,New South Wales’, Barlow,
BA (ed.), Flora and Fauna of Alpine Australasia: Ages and Origins CSIRO,Melbourne,
pp.249–262.
Mallen-Cooper J 1990,Introduced Plants in the High Altitude Environments of Kosciusko
National Park,South-Eastern Australia,PhD Thesis, Australian National University,Canberra.
Masyk,WJ 1973, The Snowmobile,a Recreational Technology in Banff National Park:
Environmental Impact and Decision Making,Studies in Landuse History and Landscape
Change, National Park Series No. 5 University of Calgary,Calgary,Alberta, Canada.
McDougall, K 1982,The Alpine Vegetation of the Bogong High Plains,Ministry for Conservation,
Environmental Studies Publication No. 357, Melbourne.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
44
McDougall, K 2000,Comments on A report on the effect of artificial snow making on the
alpine vegetation, soil and water of Thredbo and Perisher Valley,NSW 1999–2000’, by Cole and
Hallam, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service,Jindabyne, Australia.
McDougall, KL and Appleby, ML 2000,‘Plant Invasions in the High Mountains of North-Eastern
Victoria’,Victorian Naturalist 117,pp. 52–59.
Meyer, E 1993,‘The impact of summer and winter tourism on the fauna of alpine soils in
western Austria (Oetztal Alps,Ratikon)’, Revue Suisse de Zoologie 100,pp. 519–517.
Mooney,H A, and Drake, JA,1989,‘Biological Invasions: a SCOPE program overview’, Drake, JA,
Mooney,HA, di Castri,F Ruger,F Rejmanke,L and Williamson, M (eds), Biological Invasions:
a Global Perspective,John Wiley and Sons Ltd, pp.491–508.
Mosimann,T 1985, ‘Geo-ecological impacts of ski piste construction in the Swiss Alps’, Applied
Geography 5,pp.29–37.
Mules,T 2002,‘Value of Tourism’ (ISC ed.) An Assessment of Kosciuszko National Park Values:
Interim Report of the Independent Scientific Committee,New South Wales National Parks and
Wildlife Service, Queanbeyan, pp.312–319.
Nathan et al 1989,‘The impact of the greenhouse effect on catchment hydrology and storage-
yield relationships in both winter and summer rainfall zones’,Pearman, GI (ed.),Greenhouse –
Planning for Climate Change,CSIRO,Melbourne, pp.273–295.
Newesely,C, Cernusca,A and Bodner,M 1993, ‘Origin and effects of oxygen deficiency on
differently prepared ski slopes’, Verhandlungen – Gesellschaft fur Okologie 23,pp. 277–282.
Neumann, PW and Merriam,HG 1972,‘Ecological effects of snowmobiles’, Canadian Field
Naturalist 86,pp. 207–212.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) 1988,Kosciusko National
Park Plan of Management,Second Edition National Parks and Wildlife Service, New South
Wales,Sydney.
O’Brien, P and Shepherd,T 1985, Blue Cow Ski Resort Snow Making System: Review of
Environmental Factors,New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
Osborne,WS and Green, K 1992,‘Seasonal changes in composition, abundance and foraging
behaviour of birds in the Snowy Mountains’, Emu 92,pp.93–105.
Osborne,WS, Preece,M, Green,K and Green, M 1978,‘Gungartan: A winter fauna survey above
1500 metres’, Victorian Naturalist 95,pp.226–235.
Parmesan, C and Yohe,G 2003,A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts
across natural systems’, Nature 421, pp.37–42.
Parr-Smith,G and Polley, V 1998,Alpine Rehabilitation Manual for Alpine and Sub-Alpine
Environments in the Australian Alps – Working Draft,Australian Alps Liaison Committee,
Melbourne.
Pauli, H Gottfried,Hohenwallner, D, Hulber, K,Reiter,K and Grabherr,G 2001, GLORIA – Global
Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments:The Multi-Summit Approach,Field
Manual Third Edition, GLORIA, Vienna.
REFERENCES 45
PBPL 1997,Perisher Blue Ski Resort Draft Mountain Master Plan,An overview of the main
elements of the Perisher Blue ski slope plan, Perisher Blue Pty Limited, David Hogg Pty Ltd
and Design Workshop, Inc.
Pearman, GI (ed.) 1988,Greenhouse – Planning for climate change,CSIRO,Melbourne.
Pickering, CM 1997,‘Reproductive strategies and constraints of alpine plants as illustrated by
five species of Australian alpine Ranunculus’, Opera Botanica 132,pp. 101–108.
Pickering, CM 1993,Reproductive Ecology of Five Species of Australian Alpine Ranunculus,
PhD Thesis,School of Botany and Zoology,Australian National University, Canberra.
Pickering, CM 1998,‘Climate change and the reproductive ecology of Australian alpine plants’,
Australian Institute of Alpine Studies,Newsletter No. 1, Jindabyne.
Pickering, CM and Hill,W 2003,‘Ecological change as a result of winter tourism: snow
manipulation in the Australian Alps’, Buckle,R, Pickering,CM and Weaver, D (eds), Nature-
based Tourism, Environment and Land Management,CABI Publishing, New York, pp. 137–149.
Pickering, CM and Armstrong,T 2003,‘Potential impact of climate change on plant
communities in the Kosciuszko alpine zone’, Victorian Naturalist 120,pp. 263–272.
Pickering, CM,Johnston, S,Green, K and Enders,G 2003a, ‘Impacts of tourism on the Kosciusko
alpine area, in Australia’ Nature-based Tourism, Environment and Land Management,
(eds) R Buckley, CM Pickering and D Weaver,CABI Publishing, New York, pp. 123–135.
Pickering, CM,Hill, W and Johnston,F 2003b,‘Ecology of disturbance: the effect of tourism
infrastructure on weeds in the Australian Alps’, Mackay,J,‘Celebrating Mountains’,Proceedings
of an International Year of the Mountains Conference, Australian Alps Liaison Committee,
Canberra,pp. 213–218.
Pittock, AB and Nix,HA 1986,‘The effect of changing climate on biomass production – a
preliminary study’, Climatic Change 8,pp.243–255.
Prieur-Richard,AH, and Lavorel,S 2000,‘Invasions:the perspective of diverse plant
communities’,Austral Ecology 25,pp. 1–7.
Racine, CH and Ahlstrand,GM 1991,‘Thaw response of tussock shrub tundra to experimental
all-terrain vehicle disturbances in south-central Alaska’, Arctic and Alpine Research,44,
pp.31–37.
Rath, H 1999,Determination of Some Parameters that Limit the Distribution of Ranunculus
anemoneus,School of Natural Resources, University of New England,Armidale.
Richardson, SG and Salisbury, FB 1977, ‘Plant responses to the light of penetrating snow’,
Ecology 58, pp.1152–1158.
Root,TL, Price,JT,Hall, KR, Schnelders, SH,Rosenzweig, C and Pounds,JA 2003,‘Fingerprints of
global warming on wild animals and plants’, Nature 421, pp.57–60.
Ruth-Balaganskaya,E 2000,‘Soil nutrient status and revegetation practices of downhill skiing
areas in Finnish Lapland – a case study of Mt Yllas’, Landscape and Urban Planning 50,
pp.259–268.
Sanecki, GM and Knutson,R 1998, Perisher Range ski resorts rabbit control program,
Unpublished report, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
46
Scherrer,P and Pickering, C 2001,‘Effects of grazing, tourism and climate change on the alpine
vegetation of Kosciuszko National Park’, Victorian Naturalist 118,pp. 93–99.
Slatyer, RO 1976,‘Water deficits in timberline trees in the Snowy Mountains of South-eastern
Australia’,Oecologia (Berl.) 24, pp.357–366.
Slatyer, RO 1978,‘Altitudinal variation in the photosynthetic characteristics of Snow Gum
Eucalyptus pauciflora’Good, R (ed.), Kosciusko Symposium,National Parks and Wildlife Service
Occasional Paper No1, Sydney, pp.51–52.
Slatyer, RO 1989,‘Alpine and valley bottom treelines’, Good, R (ed.),The Scientific Significance of
the Australian Alps,Australian Alps Liaison Committee and Australian Academy of Science,
pp.169–184.
Slatyer, RO, Cochrane, PM,Galloway, RW 1984,‘Duration and extent of snow cover in the Snowy
Mountains and a comparison with Switzerland’, Search 15, pp.327–331.
Smith, JMB 1986,‘Origins of the Australasian tropialpine and alpine floras’,Barlow,BA (ed.),
Flora and Fauna of Alpine Australiasia: Ages and Origins,CSIRO,Melbourne.
Stanton, ML,Rejmanek, M and Galen,C 1994, ‘Changes in vegetation and soil fertility along a
predictable snowmelt gradient in the Mosquito Range, Colorado, Canada USA’,Arctic and
Alpine Research 26,pp. 364–374.
Stock M 1999, The Role of Invertebrates, Specifically Seed Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) in the
Ecology of the Alpine Region of Kosciuszko National Park,Australia Honours Thesis,School of
Environmental and Applied Sciences,Griffith University,Gold Coast.
Stock, M and Pickering,CM 2002,‘Seasonal and altitudinal differences in the abundance and
species richness of some flying macroinvertebrates in Kosciuszko National Park’, Victorian
Naturalist 119,pp. 230–235.
Tappeiner,U and Cernusca, A 1989,‘Canopy structure and light climate of different alpine
plant communities: analysis by means of a model’, Theoretical and Applied Climatology 40,
pp.81–92.
Tsuyazaki, S and Hokkaido, S 1994,‘Environmental deterioration resulting from ski-resort
construction in Japan’, Environmental Conservation 21,pp. 121–125.
Tsuyuzaki, S 1991,Present condition and regeneration of ski ground vegetation in Hokkaido
Ski grounds which have received modification Japanese Journal of Ecology 41,pp. 83–91.
(Only abstract available in English).
Tsuyuzaki, S 1990,‘Species Composition and Soil Erosion on a Ski Area in Hokkaido,Northern
Japan’,Environmental Management 14, pp.203–207.
Urbanska, KM,Fattorini,M, Theiel,K and Pflugshaupt, K 1999,‘Seed rain on alpine ski runs in
Switzerland’,Botanica Helvetica 109, pp.199–216.
Usher,MB, Kruger, FJ,MacDonald, IA, Loope,LL and Brockie, RE 1988,‘The ecology of biological
invasions into nature reserves: an introduction’, Biological Conservation 44,pp. 1–8.
Venn,S 2001, Environmental determinants of vegetation patterns in snowpatch communities on
the Bogong High Plains,Victoria, Honors Thesis, Department of Botany, La Trobe University,
Bundoora,Victoria.
REFERENCES 47
Virtanen, S 1993, Towards Conservation and Recreation Management of the Kosciuszko Alpine
Area,Unpublished report of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne.
Walter, M and Broome,L 1998,‘Snow as a factor in animal hibernation and dormancy’,
Green, K (ed.),Snow,A Natural History; An uncertain Future,Australian Alps Liaison
Committee,Canberra.
Walsh,NE, McCabe,TR, Welker, JM and Parsons, AN 1997, ‘Experimental manipulation of snow-
depth: effects on nutrient content of caribou forage’, Global Climate Change 3, pp.158–164.
Wanek,IWJ 1971,‘Snowmobile impacts on vegetation, temperature and soil microbes’, Cubb,M
(ed.),Proceedings of the 1971 snowmobile and off-road vehicle symposium,Michigan State
University, Department of Parks and Recreation Resources Technical Report No. 8, Michigan
State University, East Lansing.
Wardlaw,I 1998,‘Plant activity beneath the snow’,Green K (ed.), Snow:A Natural History; An
Uncertain Future,Australian Alps Liaison Committee,Canberra/Surrey Beatty & Sons,Sydney,
pp.113–124.
Watson, A 1985,‘Soil erosion and vegetation damage near ski lifts at Cairn Gorm,Scotland’,
Biological Conservation 33,pp. 363–381.
Watson, A, Bayfield,N and Moyes, SM 1970,‘Research on human pressures on Scottish tundra,
soil and animals’, Fuller,WA and Kevan, PG (eds),Productivity and conservation in northern
circumpolar lands Paper No.27 New Series 16: pp. 256–266.
Whetton, P 1998,‘Climate change impacts on the spatial extent of snow-cover in the
Australian Alps’, Green, K (ed.),Snow: A Natural History;An Uncertain Future,Australian Alps
Liaison Committee, Canberra/Surrey Beatty & Sons,Sydney, pp.195–206.
Whetton, PH,Haylock, MR and Galloway, RW 1996,‘Climate change and snow-cover duration
in the Australian Alps’, Climatic Change 32,pp.447–479.
Williams, ND and Mitchell,JE 1996,‘The consequences for native biota of anthropogenic-
induced climate change’, Bouma,WJ,Pearman, GI and Manning,MR (eds), Greenhouse –
Coping with Climate Change,CSIRO,Melbourne, pp.308–324.
Wilson, SD 1994,‘The contribution of grazing to plant diversity in alpine grassland and heath’,
Australian Journal of Botany 19,pp. 137–140.
Wimbush, DJ and Costin AB 1979,‘Trends in vegetation at Kosciusko III: Alpine range transects,
1959–1978’,Australian Journal of Botany 27,pp. 833–871.
Worboys,G and Pickering, CM 2002a,‘Tourism and recreation values of Kosciuszko National
Park’, An Assessment of Kosciuszko National Park Values: Interim Report of the Independent
Scientific Committee,New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service,Queanbeyan,
pp.248–299.
Worboys,G and Pickering, CM 2002b,Managing the Kosciuszko Alpine Area: Conservation
milestones and future challenges,Mountain Tourism Research Report No. 3, Cooperative
Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Griffith University,Gold Coast.
Young,D 2002,‘Economic Valuation’, An Assessment of Kosciuszko National Park Values:Interim
Report of the Independent Scientific Committee,New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife
Service, Queanbeyan,pp.300–311.
Photo: Colin Totterdell
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE BIOTA OF THE AUSTRALIAN ALPS
48
Roar Creative 3092
... There are already noticeable impacts stemming from this increased warming including habitat loss and population decline in plants and animals (Grabherr et al., 2010;Halloy & Mark, 2003;Rehnus et al., 2018). It has been predicted that distribution shifts in alpine flora and fauna will occur in the Australian alpine region, including poleward range shifts and upward range shifts in elevation (Pickering et al., 2004). Several studies have quantified the impacts of climate change in Australian alpine areas including increases in seedling establishment of Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. ...
... Since average temperatures decrease by 6.5°C per 1000 m of elevation gained (Wallace & Hobbs, 2006), it is predicted that most alpine species will move upslope in response to climate change to remain within suitable climatic conditions (Parmesan & Yohe, 2003;Pickering et al., 2004). However, northern hemisphere studies have revealed substantial variation between species in both the direction and the speed of range shifts (Lenoir & Svenning, 2015;Rumpf et al., 2018). ...
... This may result from barriers to migration such as competition, resource availability and changing snowmelt regimes (Cannone et al., 2007;Pickering et al., 2004). Species in some ecosystems may cope F I G U R E 3 Individual species' relationships between year and elevation for species that had a historic maximum elevation above 2200 m. ...
Article
Full-text available
Aim Alpine plant species’ distributions are thought to have been shifting to higher elevations in response to climate change. By moving upslope, species can occupy cooler and more suitable environments as climate change warms their current ranges. Despite evidence of upslope migration in the northern hemisphere, there is limited evidence for elevational shifts in southern hemisphere plants. Our study aimed to determine if alpine plants in Australia have migrated upslope in the last 2 to 6 decades. Location Kosciuszko National Park, NSW, Australia. Methods We collated historic occurrence data for 36 Australian alpine plant species from herbarium specimens and historic field observations and combined these historic data with modern occurrence data collected in the field. Results Eleven of the thirty‐six species had shifted upslope in mean elevation and four species showed downslope elevational shifts. The rate of change for upslope shifts varied between 4 and 10 m per year and the rate of change for most downslope shifts was between 4 and 8 m per year, with one species shifting downslope at a high rate of 18 m per year. Additionally, some species showed shifts upward in their upper range edge and/or upward or downward shifts in their lower range edge. Five species also showed range contractions in the difference between their lower and upper range edges over time, while two showed range expansions. We found no significant differences in elevational shifts through time among herbaceous dicotyledons, herbaceous monocotyledons and shrubs. Main Conclusions Plant elevational shifts are occurring rapidly in the Australian alpine zone. This may allow species to persist under climate change. However, if current warming trends continue, several species within the Australian alpine zone will likely run out of suitable habitat within a century.
... Alpine ecosystems globally are at acute risk from climate change and in Australia components are considered 'endangered' based on the IUCN Red list criteria (Pickering et al. 2004;Williams et al. 2014). Temperatures have increased on average by 0.2°C per decade and expected to increase by 4-5°C by 2100 (Harris et al. 2016). ...
... The species grows slowly, taking decades to reach reproductive maturity (Williams et al. 2008a) and recolonize burned areas (Kirkpatrick & Dickinson 1984). Individuals can attain great longevity (>400 years old) in the absence of fire (Barker 1991) and it is the longest living plant species in the Australian Alps (Pickering et al. 2004). A chronological study has shown that it is sensitive to climate variables with higher air temperatures in spring increasing growth whereas persistent snow ...
... Since MPP numbers increase with altitude and MPP are restricted to mountain peaks (Pickering et al. 2004), they are expected to be susceptible to warming through loss of habitat associated with a retreating snowline. Under a 1°C increase in temperature and rainfall changes of +5% in summer and À5% in winter, it is predicted that MPP would not persist (Brereton et al. 1995). ...
Article
The effects of anthropogenic climate change on biodiversity are well known for some high‐profile Australian marine systems, including coral bleaching and kelp forest devastation. Less well‐published are the impacts of climate change being observed in terrestrial ecosystems, although ecological models have predicted substantial changes are likely. Detecting and attributing terrestrial changes to anthropogenic factors is difficult due to the ecological importance of extreme conditions, the noisy nature of short‐term data collected with limited resources, and complexities introduced by biotic interactions. Here, we provide a suite of case studies that have considered possible impacts of anthropogenic climate change on Australian terrestrial systems. Our intention is to provide a diverse collection of stories illustrating how Australian flora and fauna are likely responding to direct and indirect effects of anthropogenic climate change. We aim to raise awareness rather than be comprehensive. We include case studies covering canopy dieback in forests, compositional shifts in vegetation, positive feedbacks between climate, vegetation and disturbance regimes, local extinctions in plants, size changes in birds, phenological shifts in reproduction and shifting biotic interactions that threaten communities and endangered species. Some of these changes are direct and clear cut, others are indirect and less clearly connected to climate change; however, all are important in providing insights into the future state of terrestrial ecosystems. We also highlight some of the management issues relevant to conserving terrestrial communities and ecosystems in the face of anthropogenic climate change.
... In the past hundred years, global average temperature has risen by 0.6 °C and is predicted to rise an additional 0.7°C by the year 2050 (Root et al. 2003;Pickering et al. 2004). This temperature change is already altering sensitive ecosystems and affecting the organisms within them, with a meta-analysis giving an average range shift of 6.1 km towards the poles and a 6.1 m shift upwards in altitude per decade (Pickering et al. 2004;Wyborn 2009). ...
... In the past hundred years, global average temperature has risen by 0.6 °C and is predicted to rise an additional 0.7°C by the year 2050 (Root et al. 2003;Pickering et al. 2004). This temperature change is already altering sensitive ecosystems and affecting the organisms within them, with a meta-analysis giving an average range shift of 6.1 km towards the poles and a 6.1 m shift upwards in altitude per decade (Pickering et al. 2004;Wyborn 2009). The commencement of seasonal spring events has been shown to be occurring on average 5.1 days earlier per decade in some species (Root et al. 2003). ...
... The commencement of seasonal spring events has been shown to be occurring on average 5.1 days earlier per decade in some species (Root et al. 2003). With significant changes already shown to be occurring (Root et al. 2003;Pickering et al. 2004;Wyborn 2009), it is increasingly important to understand the potential effects of climate change on the environments most severely at risk and their biota. ...
... Some changes to the alpine ecosystem have already been observed. For example, snow gums have already started to establish in frost hollows where they have not occurred previously (Wearne & Morgan 2001), and there have been increased sightings of feral and native mammals at higher altitudes than historically recorded (Pickering et al. 2004). ...
... Ongoing losses of snow cover will seriously affect alpine species, many of which are already considered rare and threatened. Small native mammals, such as the mountain pygmy possum and the broadtoothed rat, are experiencing habitat loss due to the reduction of protective snow cover and may become increasingly vulnerable to introduced predators, such as foxes (Pickering et al. 2004). Habitats such as alpine bogs are threatened by the potential increase in the frequency of fires. ...
Article
Australia’s climate is changing, consistent with global trends. Continental average temperatures have increased nearly 1°C since the early 20th century, with warming accelerating since the 1950s. The number of extreme hot days is increasing, whereas the number of cold days and frosts is decreasing. With an average temperature over 1.0°C above the long-term mean, 2005 was Australia’s warmest year on record; 2009 was the second warmest year on record. The decade 2000–2009 was Australia’s warmest. Rainfall has been decreasing in the south-west and south-east of Australia, but increasing in the north-west. The ocean is warming and sea levels are rising, consistent with global averages. Consistent with global and national trends, Victoria’s climate is already changing and will continue to do so, posing significant risks to the State. Over the past few decades Victoria has become hotter and drier, and these trends are likely to continue, together with an increasing intensity and/or frequency of extreme events, such as heatwaves, droughts, bushfires and floods, posing significant risks to the State’s infrastructure, coasts, ecosystems, agriculture and health.
... Worldwide, countries are investigating how climate change will affect their terrestrial biodiversity, and developing strategies for adapting to climate change that are tailored to their specific needs and statutory requirements (e.g. Pickering et al. 2004;Hobday et al. 2006;Hilbert et al. 2007;Hopkins et al. 2007; NSW Inter-agency Biodiversity and Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Working Group 2007a, b;CCSP 2008;Dunlop & Brown 2008;Lemmen et al. 2008). Amongst other things, these strategies aim to maintain and enhance ecosystem resilience, and to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. ...
... Much has been written about climate change adaptation strategies in both the scientific literature and public policy documents (e.g. Pickering et al. 2004;Hobday et al. 2006;Hilbert et al. 2007;Hopkins et al. 2007; NSW Inter-agency Biodiversity and Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Working Group 2007a, b; CCSP 2008; Dunlop & Brown 2008;Lemmen et al. 2008). Many of these are high-level national strategies and thus are, by necessity, broad and general. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
New Zealand’s terrestrial biodiversity will come under increasing pressure as a result of global climate change. Furthermore, climate change will likely exacerbate other existing threats, such as pests and human disturbance. This report describes a framework that will guide how the Department of Conservation (DOC) manages the impacts of climate change on terrestrial native biodiversity in New Zealand. This framework comprises five broad strategies: improve knowledge; develop adaptation methods and decision-support tools; incorporate climate change adaptation into existing management, research, planning and policy; improve current management to facilitate native resilience; and raise awareness outside DOC. Within these strategies, a total of 14 actions, covering a range of conservation practices, have been identified.
... The Australian Alps are vulnerable to numerous changes, and as an 'elevationally restricted mountain ecosystem' with high numbers of endemic species (Pickering et al. 2004), they fall into the category of first concern for Australian ecosystems at risk from climate change (Laurance et al. 2011). Consistent with increases in local fire weather severity (Clarke et al. 2013), fire frequency in the Alps has increased sharply in the 21st century (Fairman et al. 2016). ...
... While considerable research has been undertaken on the climate change impacts of the environmental assets in the Australian Alps (e.g. Pickering et al. 2004), there is less bioclimatic modelling and knowledge on conservation in a changing climate for environments in the coastal, escarpment and tableland areas. A more integrated approach is required to ensure that knowledge gaps are identified and addressed and protection of natural assets from changing risks is well-supported in broader land use planning and its implementation. ...
Book
Full-text available
Explores issues around regional planning in climate adaptation in the Australian Capital Region, Australia.
Article
Phytophthora species are associated with disease in horticulture, agriculture and natural vegetation worldwide but are not well known in cold areas. In Australia, alpine regions have been regarded as unsuitable for the survival and disease expression of Phytophthora cinnamomi, which has caused catastrophic damage to vegetation in other parts of the country. Phytophthora cambivora, on the other hand, has been detected recently in the roots of an endemic alpine shrub (Nematolepis ovatifolia) and may already be exerting pressure on alpine vegetation. We conducted glasshouse susceptibility trials on nine Australian alpine and subalpine shrub species to P. cambivora and P. cinnamomi. The pathogens were re-isolated from the roots of most test species but for some species, few replicates were infected and few died. One species (Phebalium squamulosum) was regarded as highly susceptible with most plants in inoculated pots dying and both pathogens being commonly isolated from roots. The climatic conditions of most populations of the test species are currently unsuitable for disease expression from P. cinnamomi. However, the projected change in temperature in the Australian Alps with climate change will expose most populations of eight of the species to P. cinnamomi activity by 2070. Pathogens are likely to be important drivers of future vegetation in many mountainous areas which are currently not within their range of survival and pathogenesis. Management of these areas should include hygiene and pathogen monitoring, and minimise disturbances that heighten stress for susceptible species.
Article
Myponga Weir in South Australia, is dependent upon winter dominated rainfalls. Moogerah Dam in Queensland, derives high summer and early autumn rainfalls from the Australian monsoon season. Stochastic data generation techniques are used to derive 1000 year daily-rainfall sequences corresponding to the range of climatic changes expected over the next 50 years. Rainfall data, and expected changes in evaporation rates, are input into a conceptual, physically-based rainfall-runoff model to determine the influence of climatic variation on streamflow and soil moisture characteristics. Streamflow data is used to determine the impact of climatic variation on the yield-reliability relationships of the two reservoirs. The study indicates a considerable amplification of the effect of climatic change on soil moisture availability, flow duration and flood frequency curves, and reservoir reliability. -from Authors
Article
Changes in vegetation during the 20-yr period from 1959 to 1978 were measured along permanent transects and on photographic quadrats in four subalpine areas at elevations between 1660 and 1770 m at Kosciusko: Thompsons Plain, Wragges Creek, The Piper and Piper West. The plant communities sampled include more or less natural tussock understorey vegetation in mature subalpine woodland, disclimax tussock, disclimax intertussock and more open vegetation with large bare areas, all in sites formerly dominated by woodland, and disclimax ground-water vegetation with shrubs, derived from Sphagnum bogs. On the dense tussock transects under woodland the vegetation underwent little change, except for an increase in the number and abundance of species of major and intermediate herbs within the snowgrass tussocks; strong competition from the perennial snowgrasses and other herbs suppressed the development of shrubs. On the disclimax tussock transects there was a progressive decrease in the amount of bare ground to minimal values, corresponding with increases in the cover of herbaceous species and shrubs. the increases in shrubs being generally proportional to the amount of bare ground initially exposed. On the disclimax intertussock transects there was a substantial decrease in the amount of bare ground owing to the increased cover of snowgrasses, shrubs and colonizing minor herbs. The cover provided by major non-gramineous herbs remained low, but showed signs of increasing towards the end of the period of measurement. On some transects, the shrubs began to senesce without regeneration as competition from the perennial herbs increased. The bare transects on which there were initially large areas of bare ground continued to lose soil. The main colonizers under these conditions were leguminous shrubs. On the ground-water transects the initial cover of short, grazing-adapted herbs was replaced by tallergrowing sedges and shrubs, with some adjacent regeneration of Sphagnum moss. The results of the transect and associated quadrat measurements were supplemented by other observations throughout the Kosciusko National Park, on the variable regeneration of snowgum, and on the regeneration of kangaroo grass.(Themeda australis) in the Poa-dominated sod tussock grasslands in lower-subalpine cold air plains. The contrasting condition of subalpine vegetation in the Snowy Plains area, just outside the Park, was also recorded. Trends and associated plant successions reflect the effects of the last 20 years’ protection from burningoff and livestock grazing and the occasional periods of unfavourable weather including drought, prolonged snow cover and low temperatures. The vegetation trends, which are still continuing, are generally beneficial to water catchment and nature conservation values. Grazing potential has suffered through the replacement of minor herbs by less palatable grasses and shrubs, and although palatable major herbs have increased these could not sustain grazing at the previous stocking rates. Unless grossIy disturbed, some of the associated plant successions are likely to continue for at least another 30 years before near-climax stages are reached, and on severely disturbed sites subclimax conditions may persist indefinitely.
Article
Describes the planning and techniques to prevent erosion during the development of ski slopes and associated areas. In addition to restoration and maintenance of ski slopes and ski lift areas, attention must be paid to minimising soil erosion arising from ancillary features, such as access roads. - Stephen Nortcliff