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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2014

Chapter 4 - The impacts of climate change on Australian and New Zealand flora and fauna



Over recent years, anthropogenic climate change has emerged as a considerable threat to the biota of Australia and New Zealand. Despite the relatively modest climatic changes that have occurred to date, species already appear to be responding by shifting their distributions, altering the timing of life-cycle events and modifying their behaviours. This chapter summarises the impacts of climate change on the species and ecosystems of Australia and New Zealand, describing the ways in which observed and projected responses differ from those occurring in the Northern Hemisphere due to the distinctiveness of our environment and biota. We also highlight the implications of these responses for species and ecosystem conservation.


Nature’s calendar is something we become familiar with from a young age. The flowering of golden wattles takes place in late winter, while the arrival of migratory birds and the drone of cicadas herald spring. As the season progresses Common Brown Butterflies emerge, webs are spun by St Andrew’s Cross Spiders, and flame trees and jacarandas bloom. Sepal ‘flowers’ of the Christmas Bush turning red and Christmas Beetles littering the back porch signal the start of summer holidays. As the New Year dawns, By-the-Wind Sailor sea jellies can be found on our shores. Summer wanes, giving way to Autumn, leaves senesce and fall, while in the oceans Southern right and Humpback whales migrate to warmer waters.

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