Climate change affects every country on earth – weather patterns are changing, there are more extreme weather events and sea levels are rising. This is disrupting the way we live and the economies we rely on. The effects of climate change are being seen across the Glenelg Hopkins region – it is getting warmer and drier. Into the future we can expect to see:
- Continued increases in temperatures year round.
- Less rainfall in autumn, winter and spring.
- Harsher fire weather and longer fire seasons.
- More hot days and warm spells, and fewer frosts.
- More frequent and more intense downpours.
- Rising sea levels.
Climate change is likely to have considerable impacts on species, habitats, ecosystems and landforms across the Glenelg Hopkins region, with flow-on effects to society and the economy. There will be shorter periods of suitable weather for activities such as revegetation, pest plant and animal control and community’s ability to access and volunteer in the natural environment.
Adapting to climate change is a complex problem. We need to better understand and manage the impacts on our communities, environment and economy, and prepare for a range of possible futures. The Victorian Government Climate Change Act 2017 provides a legislative foundation to manage climate change risks, maximise the opportunities that arise from decisive action, and drive Victoria’s transition to a climate resilient community and economy with net zero emissions by 2050. The Glenelg Hopkins CMA has developed a regional Climate Change Strategy for 2016 to 2023 to inform regional planning through the identification of priorities for adaptation and mitigation under a changing climate.
For the Glenelg Hopkins region, climate change projections indicate that increasingly hotter and drier conditions can be expected. Temperatures are expected to increase in all seasons with more hot days and fewer very cold days overall. This will have signiﬁcant impacts on the region’s terrestrial habitats and species, populations and communities. Changes in the geographic range of both ﬂora and fauna species may result in altered community structure and function. Although it is difficult to predict individual species’ responses to a changing climate due to complexity in ecological interactions, it is likely that the timing of life cycle processes such as migration, ﬂowering and breeding will be altered. The ability of ﬂora and fauna species to move through the landscape will also dictate their survival. Ultimately, the change in climate will result in a decrease in the region’s biodiversity and a change in the current location of species and communities.
A decrease in winter rainfall and an increase in the intensity of extreme rainfall events are expected across the Glenelg Hopkins region. Soil and land assets are likely to experience a decrease in groundcover and an increase in the likelihood of erosion events. Less rainfall and greater temperatures are likely to cause a reduction in pasture production and persistence. This may have implications for the region’s feed management systems, with a potentially greater dependence on cool season production, grain feeding and stored fodder. With less rainfall the Glenelg Hopkins catchment is also likely to become increasingly suitable for cropping. This land use change and subsequent increasing pressures from production has implications for remnant vegetation and wetland protection.
Rivers, floodplains and wetlands will be greatly impacted by the reduction in rainfall and subsequent runoff and stream inflow. Rivers and wetlands that rely on direct precipitation will be most affected. The region’s wetlands are likely to undergo a variety of changes such as reduction in size, conversion to dry land or a shift in wetland type. Despite wetlands being very vulnerable to climate change, they are by nature a resilient ecosystem. The protection and enhancement of wetlands will become increasingly important due to their carbon sequestration potential and ability to act as ‘stepping stones’ for biodiversity through the catchment. Rivers are also critical for maintaining connectivity through the landscape. Riparian vegetation and refuge areas will become increasingly important with reduced stream inflow and more hot days. A reduction in water availability and possible increase in demand may intensify pressure on the region’s water resources, including its rivers and groundwater.
Sea surface temperatures are likely to increase, causing significant changes to coastal, estuarine and marine assets. Large increases in temperature will have significant impacts on the current geographical ranges of species. Effects are already evident with a southward movement in the range of macroalgaes, with likely impacts on the many species they support. Tropical pest species are expected to extend their habitat range further south, placing greater pressure on the region’s marine areas. An increase in sea level will increase pressure on the coast and estuaries. Impacts such as coastal erosion and inundation will be more likely, causing habitat loss and infrastructure damage.
Rural communities are identified as vulnerable to climate change with environmental, economic and social changes predicted to impact on their well-being and safety. Human health is closely linked to the environment we live in. Extreme weather events such as bushfires, droughts and heatwaves have direct impacts on peoples mental and physical health. The community’s ability to access and volunteer in the natural environment will also be impacted.
Responding to climate change in the Glenelg Hopkins region requires increasing the resilience of the natural environment to adverse impacts, maximising the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to change, and maximising the storage of carbon in the landscape consistent with continued productive agricultural enterprises. Fortunately, the actions that will be most effective in achieving these objectives are consistent with current best practice approaches. The following management priorities will best position the region to thrive in the face of climate change:
- Carbon planting projects that improve landscape connectivity and resilience, and wildlife corridors, ensuring multiple benefits for the environment, as well as within high value agricultural areas with positive impacts for adaptation and production.
- Protection and improvement of blue carbon (wetland) habitats.
- Increasing the resilience of agricultural land by fostering soil health and increasing groundcover, and improving the productivity of degraded land.
- Collaborative local planning that embeds climate change knowledge to inform on-ground action.
- Working with Traditional Owners to protect cultural sites vulnerable to climate change, and supporting the use of traditional knowledge where appropriate.
- Sharing learnings and new knowledge to build regional land manager capacity.
- Improving our knowledge for adaptation and mitigation through research and regional partnerships.
The region’s public land will become increasingly important as they provide refugia, reduce the overall sensitivity of the system and increase adaptive capacity across the landscape. Refuges such as deep pools or artificial storages may become critical to these species that require permanent water for survival. Protecting existing and potential climate refugia and known resilient systems forms the backbone of biodiversity protection.
Landscape-level planning across the Glenelg Hopkins region will be crucial in building the adaptive capacity of systems through improved connectivity via corridors and biolinks. Landscape scale projects such as the Glenelg River Restoration Project, Habitat 141 and the Grampians to Pyrenees Biolink provide an opportunity to increase the connectivity of rivers and streams with public land to benefit the ecological resilience of the entire region. Protecting riparian vegetation and reinstating traditional wetland and river hydrology are critical in this process. For wetlands, gaps in knowledge and condition also need to be addressed.
Innovation and creativity is needed to accommodate or buffer extreme events in estuary ﬂoodplains and the landward movement of coastal habitat like saltmarsh. New planning tools, partnerships, market-based instruments and offsets may need to be developed. Maintaining ground cover is current best practice and greatly increases the adaptive capacity of the region’s soils. A key action for climate change adaptation is to improve landowner awareness and the uptake of best practice soil management. There remains a signiﬁcant need for new knowledge to ensure that primary production is well placed to respond to climate change challenges and opportunities.
For the coastal and marine environment, there needs to be a reduction in stressors such as inappropriate land use and development or polluting activities, to build climate resilience in ecosystems and species. Land-based management decisions (e.g. dam construction or removal, deforestation, green infrastructure to limit runoff, shoreline hardening, and urban development) are significant and important interactions also affecting adaptation in marine and coastal systems. Improving catchment-based activities can improve the resilience and adaptive capacity of the marine and coastal environments.
In the long term, species and communities will need to move in response to changing temperature and rainfall patterns. It is unlikely that habitats will be able to be maintained in their current patterns or species assemblages. However, structure and function may be able to be maintained. This will depend on building resilience and biodiversity, facilitating the protection and enhancement of functional redundancies and improving connectivity throughout the landscape. The assisted colonisation of species is a controversial issue and may or may not be appropriate under different climate scenarios.
The Glenelg Hopkins community plays an integral role in the delivery of integrated catchment management actions. More can always be done to raise awareness and to support a transition towards a community that is more fully connected with the environment. There is also an opportunity to increase the understanding of the role of ecosystem processes and the social and financial reliance on healthy, functioning ecosystems. Increasing uptake in partnership projects, Landcare and participation at community forums and field days will contribute to this. However, the long-term goal is to develop programs and processes that allow not just for the involvement of communities, but for true collaboration and empowerment of communities. Region-wide priorities for community education and capacity building for climate change adaptation and mitigation need to be supported. This should include:
- Improved resilience of communities.
- Embedding the latest climate data and science in decision-making, education and information provision to local communities to help understand the economic and social impacts of climate change.
- For health agencies to see climate adaptation as core business.
The Climate Ready Natural Resource Management website contains information developed by Victoria’s 10 Catchment Management Authorities, including regional climate change projections, impacts of climate change on natural resources, priority areas for climate change adaptation, carbon sequestration and management opportunities.
Further regional, state and national information can be found in the resources below.
The Glenelg Hopkins CMA Climate Change Strategy that was developed in 2016 remains a relevant guide for climate action in our region.
The South West Climate Change Portal is a collaboration between the local government authorities of south-west Victoria, the Corangamite and Glenelg-Hopkins CMAs and the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation. The portal’s aim is to be an enabling tool. It provides regionally specific climate change information that can be used by NRM and other planners, land managers and community groups, as well as those working directly with community groups, to help the south-west region adapt to a changing climate.
The Victorian Greenhouse Alliances are a partnership of local governments and other organisations taking regional climate change action. The Barwon South West Climate Alliance covers most of our region, with the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance making up the rest.
Local Government Resources can be found on DELWPs Climate Change Adaptation Resources webpage.
Victorian Government resources
The Victorian Climate Change Act 2017 provides a legislative foundation to manage climate change risks, maximise the opportunities that arise from decisive action, and drive our transition to a climate resilient community and economy with net zero emissions by 2050. Key government intitiatives that sit under the Act include Victoria’s Climate Change Framework, Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017-2020 and the Victoria’s Renewable Energy Action Plan.
The Victorian Government is preparing Adaptation Action Plans to build climate resilience in areas either vulnerable to climate change impacts or essential to ensure Victoria is prepared.
These areas or ‘systems’ are Primary Production, Built Environment, Education and Training, Health and Human Services, Transport, Natural Environment and the Water Cycle.
The Natural Environment Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2022-2026 is particularly relevant to the RCS and aims to establish practices, systems, and knowledge to enable effective adaptation to climate impacts on Victoria’s natural systems.
DELWP’s Climate Change Adaptation Resources webpage includes resources about climate change impacts and adaptation action in Victoria. Climate change projections and adaptation snapshots for this region can be found there.
Victoria’s Climate Science Report 2019 brings together the latest climate science knowledge gained from the Victorian Government’s ongoing investment in climate science. The report gives us valuable insights into both how our climate is changing and what it means for Victoria’s future.
The Victorian Climate Projections 2019 the Victorian Government has partnered with CSIRO to help Victorian communities prepare for climate change by providing authoritative and up-to-date information. Local scale climate projections (5 km2) have been developed for Victoria. Majority of the Glenelg Hopkins region covered by the Great South Coast with the north east part of the region covered in the Central Highlands.
VCC 2018 marine climate change Victoria report summarises a Victorian Coastal Council Science Panel workshop to examine Victoria’s coastal and marine environments under new global information about future climate change.
Agriculture Victoria’s Climate and Weather Resources webpage contains:
- A guide to regional climate updates.
- Information about the science behind weather, climate and forecasting.
- Information about carbon and emissions in agriculture.
Australian Government resources
BOM 2019 Climate Guides aims to improve the resilience of farming businesses by providing localised facts about the likelihood, severity and duration of key weather variables. It is a collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO and FarmLink Research. The guides have been developed in collaboration with representative from each NRM region to ensure the information is tailored to the needs of local farmers and agribusinesses.
The Climate Change in Australia website has a range of climate information, projections, tools, data and data explorers. The Glenelg Hopkins region is in the Southern Slopes Cluster, with another four Victorian CMAs, three Tasmanian NRMs and the NSW South East Local Land Services. All these NRM regions share a cool maritime climate.
AdaptNRM is a national initiative that aims to support NRM groups in updating their NRM plans to include climate adaptation planning.
Research and innovation
Victorian Water and Climate Initiative (VicWaCI) iis a partnership between the Victorian Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Melbourne, and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). VicWaCI is managed by the Hydrology and Climate Science team of DELWP’s Water and Catchments Group. VicWACI released the Victoria’s Water in a Changing Climate in December 2020. This has informed the development of Guidelines for Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Water Availability in Victoria. Together they provide a foundation for regional sustainable water strategies, urban water strategies, and informing water resource planning decisions. VicWaCI released new and updated findings in 2020.
Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (PICCC) is based at the University of Melbourne. Its mission is to provide national leadership through research, development, education, partnerships and knowledge management and to build the capacity of primary industries to manage risks and opportunities from climate change.
Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation (VCCCI) has been established to strengthen Victoria’s role as a climate change leader. The Virtual Centre will foster innovative approaches and collaboration between businesses, industry, researchers and government to help Victoria reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
BuiltBetter is the low carbon living knowledge hub for a better built environment. It is an initiative of the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne and was funded by the Co-operative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living. The BuiltBetter Knowledge Hub assists built environment practitioners and innovators to make better policy and practice decisions.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) has been at the forefront of adaptation research in Australia. They are funded through the Commonwealth Government and have information on Victorian and Australian specific research, knowledge, case studies and tools on climate change adaptation. They maintain a full library of research and publications, the practical guidance information for local government and organisations (e.g. asset managers, finance managers, councillors, etc) and run conferences and webinars.
The Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR) funded by the Victorian Government through the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), supported by a consortium of Victorian Universities, and hosted by the University of Melbourne. Although funding lapsed on this knowledge hub in 2014, the resources are still available, but the longevity of this site is not known. All VCCCAR Resources have been transferred to the Knowledge Hub for Climate Change Innovation.
WeADAPT is a knowledge bank run by the Stockholm Environment Institute. They have a wide array of resources, case studies and discussion forums to share ideas on adaptation. Members of the public can share and add case studies and information articles.
Climate-ADAPT is the European Union’s knowledge bank for adaptation. It has links to official government information and climate science data, links to policy and legislation, and a knowledge bank that includes tools, case studies, and information to help people take action.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has resources, tools and case studies on climate change action.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is a resource for climate change action in the built environment sector. They run the Green Star sustainability rating system (which incorporates emissions reduction and adaptation) for buildings and urban precincts.
The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia is similar to the Green Building Council except they focus specifically on infrastructure. They run events, training and courses to share ideas about sustainability and climate change action in the built environment sector.
The Momentum for Change Podcast is produced by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which includes case studies on climate change action across the globe.
ClimateX is an initiative run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While it is focused on climate science, they have a podcast that looks at climate change innovation in transport, energy and buildings.