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Greg Sousaari examines an area of cracked, drying mud. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Greg Sousaari examines an area of cracked, drying mud. Photo Ben Parkhurst.

Climate change

We’re living through a time of unprecedented climate change. Atmospheric levels of CO2 are the highest they've ever been in recorded history.

Across the globe, changes to the climate have been observed at an unprecedented level. Sea levels have risen, oceans are getting warmer, and polar ice sheets are melting. The flow-on effect of this means increased and intensified weather events, such as extreme bushfires and flooding, and an escalation of threats to precious ecosystems and the species that call them home.

We have the science and we have the solutions.

We work with leading researchers, land managers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure our approach is long-term, strategic and based on the best, most relevant data.

Habitat corridors

As a conservation organisation, we need to do more of what we’ve already been doing. That is, setting aside land for conservation, focusing on landscape-scale solutions that provide connected habitat corridors for native species to move freely in response to changing conditions.

A patchwork of cleared and uncleared land around Chereninup Creek Reserve in WA. Photo Amanda Keesing.

As conditions alter, the ability to move freely through the landscape in search of more favourable conditions will be vital for the survival of many species. Unfortunately land clearing for agriculture and development has left many isolated pockets of remnant habitat. Connectivity has always been a focus. We aim to acquire or help manage land adjacent to other conservation areas and to connect up habitat pockets.

We’ve also been participants in large scale partnerships such as the ambitious Gondwana Link project aiming to connect up remnants of native vegetation over a 1,000km stretch of south-west WA.

Altogether our reserve and partnership properties connect with National Parks and other conservation reserves to contribute to more connected natural landscapes.

Large-scale revegetation

Revegetating cleared land is a big part of reconnecting remnant habitats and helps to sequester carbon. We have runs on the board with successful revegetation work in south-west WA at our Monjebup reserves, and ongoing revegetation at Scottsdale near Canberra.

Ecologist Ben Parkhurst with his son Liam, planting a seedling as part of our largest ever revegetation project at Eurardy. Photo Katelyn Reynolds.

We are currently working with Carbon Positive Australia, a not-for-profit that specialises in high-quality, biodiverse revegetation, on our biggest revegetation project to date – a 1,350 hectare area in which over a million trees and shrubs will be planted.

If we can see them through until fully grown, this new vegetation will offset at least 90,000 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of taking more than 21,000 cars off the road each year.

This mammoth task in Western Australia will help re-establish York gum (Eucalyptus loxophleba) woodlands and melaleuca, helping provide habitat for species in decline such as the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and vulnerable Malleefowl.

Habitat refuge research

Spatial ecologist Dr April Reside has painstakingly mapped out a model predicting how, by the year 2085, climate change will have affected the distribution of more than 1,700 native vertebrate species. Her conclusion was that as rainfall and temperature patterns change, some areas will be better able to support animals than others. It identified the Einsleigh Uplands in far North Queensland as one of the most important areas for habitat refuge in the state – which amplifies the importance of our Yourka Reserve

Fish management work on the Murrumbidgee River at Scottsdale Reserve, NSW. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Similarly, ongoing research into habitat refuge areas is a key theme of our Science Program. Knowing where species may retreat or shift to under climate change becomes increasingly important for combating biodiversity loss and species decline

One example is a study on the spawning habits and critical survival areas for Macquarie Perch on the Upper Murrumbidgee River. Fish are tagged and a network of listening stations installed along stretches of the river track their seasonal movements to help us better understand their responses to the environment and how best to protect them.

Climate change research

Bush Heritage has researched the future climates projected for all our priority areas. We're now examining the implications of these projections for the habitats and species we protect and for the safety of staff working in hotter, more fire-prone conditions. Such analysis guides our planning and investment into the future.

Bats are important indicators of climate change because unlike other small vertebrates they can fly, so redistribute relatively easily. Photo Kurt & Andrea Tschirner.

A long-term (30-year) study on the effects of climate change at our Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia, is expected to provide unprecedented data for modelling and informing conservation work. The Conservation Council of Western Australia has set up a climate change observatory.

The observatory itself consists of an automatic weather station that will monitor changes in temperature, rainfall and solar radiation over time; the project also includes ongoing biodiversity surveys at monitoring points across the reserve.

With external factors like weeds, feral animals and other threats to biodiversity minimised, we're more likely to see clearly the results of climate change.

Weather station monitoring conditions at Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo Kerry Trapnell.At the moment very little of the published research on the impact of climate change on biodiversity is from the Southern hemisphere.

Why Charles Darwin Reserve? It lies on a boundary between the south-western wheat belt and the arid zone, so many plant and animal species found here are at the edge of their distribution and particularly vulnerable to the effects of change.

Trialling innovative solutions

In addition to studying the impacts of climate change, sometimes the disruption of our existing natural areas requires direct intervention. At Nardoo Hills in central Victoria, dieback of Grey Box and Yellow Box woodlands, in response to a hotter drier climate, has fuelled the need for an innovative response.

Together with Greenfleet we’ve run a restoration trial to provide long-term guidance on viable, climate-ready eucalypt revegetation options for Nardoo Hills and the region. We initially used the Bureau of Meteorology’s Climate Analogues tool to pinpoint regions currently experiencing a climate similar to that expected at Nardoo Hills in 30-70 years’ time. Such a long-term outlook was needed if the trees were to persist for at least 70 years.

A seedling part of an innovative revegetation trial at Nardoo Hills in central Victoria. Photo Kate Thorburn.

We then identified regions that also had records of reasonable populations of Grey Box and/or Yellow Box: Quorn SA, Griffith NSW and Condobolin NSW. We also chose two provenances from climatically softer analogues (Deniliquin NSW and Wagga NSW) and the local provenance of each species from the Wedderburn/St Arnaud area of Victoria.

Planting this mix of provenances at Nardoo Hills is allowing us to trial whether introducing genetic variants more suited to hotter dryer climates can help us maintain the ecological functioning of important habitats. We also hope that the plants will cross pollinate and so produce new plants with more resilience to hotter conditions.

Long-term ecological monitoring

Of course, our long term ecological monitoring program on all of our reserves and partnership properties allows us to see the effects of our conservation actions, as well as carefully monitor changes in the reserves over time.

As climate change continues to be felt, the data we've been collecting over a long period will stand us in good stead to understand the likely impacts in the landscapes where we work and help us design strategies to ensure ecosystem function is maintained.

Reducing our carbon footprint

A carbon emission inventory was completed for 2022, which clearly showed that Bush Heritage sequesters significantly more carbon than it emits – 306,000 compared to 1,140.9 tonnes (across Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions). 

Solar panels at Red Moort Reserve, WA. Photo Lee Griffith Photography.

We aim to continue to reduce the carbon emissions under our control and have committed to:

  • Appropriately minimise emissions with a focus on travel, vehicles, fuel use, data storage and management and printing/mailing material to supporters.
  • Develop a strategy to only be purchasing hybrid, electric, hydrogen (or other alternative fuel) vehicles (4WDs and side by sides) by 2030.
  • Trial two hybrid or electric vehicles (4WDs and side by sides) in appropriate locations in 2025 (this might be in Victoria or NSW where we're likely to be close enough to public charging stations).
  • Make charging stations for electric vehicles available at reserves that are within 5 hours of another charging station by 2030 (supporting volunteers that want to travel to the reserves by electric vehicle).
  • Only use diesel generators on reserves for back-up power. All other power to be provided from the grid or from solar/wind generation.
  • Purchase the most energy efficient, easily repairable, appliances for reserves.
  • Progressively upgrade infrastructure on all reserves to enhance energy efficiency (i.e. insulation, lighting, etc.).

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Webinar: Creating climate resilience


Creating climate resilience

Rebecca Spindler and Vikki Parsley discuss blending multiple knowledge systems to provide the evidence base for addressing climate change.

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BUSHTRACKS 17/09/2019

An antidote to despair

Rather than lose hope when eucalypts started dying in central Victoria, Bush Heritage scientists came up with an innovative solution using future climate scenarios.

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BUSHTRACKS 17/09/2019

The one million tree project

As Bush Heritage ecologist Ben Parkhurst, his wife Tina Schroeder and their 10-month-old son Liam look on, the first of over 36,000 native seedlings are planted in the loamy, moist soil as part of the first phase of an ambitious project that will eventually see over 1350 hectares of cleared land on Eurardy restored.

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BUSHTRACKS 06/06/2019

Fit for the future

In the face of climate change, keeping Bush Heritage’s Yourka Reserve healthy has never been more important. The fates of many species could rely on it.

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BUSHTRACKS 11/12/2018

Outback extremes

A more sophisticated understanding of how climate change will impact Cravens Peak and Ethabuka reserves is focusing our conservation efforts when and where they will do the greatest good.

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BUSHTRACKS 10/09/2018

Woodland foragers

Tarcutta Hills Reserve provides vital foraging habitat for the Swift Parrot and other woodland birds, but ensuring it continues to do so in the future will require forward-planning and fast action.

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BLOG 09/02/2018

An interview with Prof Lesley Hughes

Dr Lesley Hughes is much more than your average climate change expert, for she hails from that ever-so-rare breed of scientists that allow the world to see the passion and emotion driving their work.

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Fire management

By using fire to strategically burn small areas of bush across our nature reserves we build complexity into the vegetation over successive seasons. This creates patches of bush at different stages of regeneration that can provide the resources animals need, no matter what the season.

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