top of page

Climate change and conservation planning

Anchor 1

Refuges for terrestrial biodiversity

The fingerprints of climate change are already evident across the world's ecosystems. Impacts are likely to be increasingly felt in the coming decades. There is evidence that some key locations - refugia - have enabled species to withstand extreme climate change in the past. Therefore, identifying these key refugial locations for the survival of current biodiversity is a conservation priority. 

Funded by NCCARF, April led the "Climate change refugia for terrestrial biodiversity" project, which involved collaboration with CSIRO, Australian National University, Curtin University, University of Queensland, and the Department of Conservation in Western Australia. 

April modelled the distribution of over 1600 vertebrates across Australia at a fine resolution, and located the future location of suitable climate for all these species for each decade until 2085. From this, she identified hotspots across Australia where species were moving to in order to track their suitable climate. 

These models are available through this interactive site at James Cook University. 


These species distribution models have been used by the Queensland State Government to calculate “climate resilience” to prioritise land acquisitions for inclusion in the protected area network.

Relevant publications:

​Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., Phillips, B., Shoo, L., Rosauer, D., Anderson, B., Welbergen, J., Moritz, C., Ferrier, S., & Harwood, T. (2013). Climate change refugia for terrestrial biodiversity: defining areas that promote species persistence and ecosystem resilience in the face of global climate change. In. Gold Coast: National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

Reside, A. E., Welbergen, J. A., Phillips, B. L., Wardell-Johnson, G. W., Keppel, G., Ferrier, S., Williams, S. E., & VanDerWal, J. (2014). Characteristics of climate change refugia for Australian biodiversity. Austral Ecology, 39(8), 887-897.

James, C. S., Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., Pearson, R. G., Burrows, D., Capon, S. J., Harwood, T. D., Hodgson, L., & Waltham, N. J. (2017). Sink or swim? Potential for high faunal turnover in Australian rivers under climate change. Journal of Biogeography, Online early.

Keppel, G., Mokany, K., Wardell-Johnson, G. W., Phillips, B. L., Welbergen, J. A., & Reside, A. E. (2015). The capacity of refugia for conservation planning under climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13, 106-112.

Anchor 2

Conservation planning for climate change

With the high rate of ecosystem change, effective systematic conservation planning must account for ongoing and imminent threats to biodiversity to ensure its persistence. There are tools being developed to help plan for effective conservation in the face of climate change.

Working with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups that make up the Wet Tropics NRM Cluster, April investigated the important refugial areas for biodiversity in their region. She looked at the trade-offs between selecting only for important biodiversity areas, versus selecting also for carbon sequestration and storage. She also investigated which species were included into the prioritisation and which species might miss out.

April reviewed the literature on the advice available to resource managers about accounting for climate change, and provided a way forward using multiple objective planning.


Relevant publications:

​Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., & Moran, C. (2017). Trade-offs in carbon storage and biodiversity conservation under climate change reveal risk to endemic species. Biological Conservation, 207, 9-16.

Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., Moilanen, A., & Graham, E. M. (2017). Examining current or future trade-offs for biodiversity conservation in north-eastern Australia. PLoS ONE, 12(2), e0172230.

Reside, A. E., Butt, N., & Adams, V. M. (2018). Adapting systematic conservation planning for climate change. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27(1), 1-29.

Reside, A. E., Ceccarelli, D. M., Isaac, J. L., Hilbert, D. W., Moran, C., Llewelyn, J., Macdonald, S., Hoskin, C. J., Pert, P. L., & Parsons, J. (2014). Biodiversity - Adaptation pathways and opportunities. James Cook University, Cairns.

Anchor 3

The impact of climate change on Australian tropical savanna birds

Tropical northern Australia houses a large proportion of Australia's biodiversity, however many species in northern Australia are under threat from climate change, land modification and introduced species. Most of northern Australia is tropical savanna, a biome that covers nearly one-quarter of mainland Australia. Australian tropical savannas have been substantially less modified than the landscapes of southern Australia, and are consequently considered to be largely intact. However, alarming population declines have been recorded for mammals and granivorous birds that occur within. Despite the extent and species richness of the Australian tropical savannas, and the need for further conservation attention, few assessments of the vulnerability of Australian tropical savannas fauna to climate change have been conducted.

My PhD research through CSIRO and James Cook University investigated the impact of climate change on Australian tropical savanna birds. April began by improving methods for understanding their distributions, firstly by testing whether training distribution models on short-term weather variables better explains distributions when compared with standard long-term climate models. Next, she tested whether the inclusion of coarse-resolution historic species data decreases the performance of models that are otherwise composed of recent, high-resolution species data. April predicted the impact of major threats to ATS birds: increasing fire frequency and climate change, by modelling the response of species distributions to predicted change. Finally, she used the predictions of species sensitivity to changes in fire regimes, the predictions of distribution change due to climate change, and information on their life history and ecology to generate an overall vulnerability assessment.

Relevant publications:

​Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J. J., Kutt, A. S., & Perkins, G. C. (2010). Weather, not climate, defines distributions of vagile bird species. PLoS ONE, 5(10), e13569.

Reside, A. E., Watson, I., VanDerWal, J., & Kutt, A. S. (2011). Incorporating low-resolution historic species location data decreases performance of distribution models. Ecological Modelling, 222(18), 3444-3448.

Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., Kutt, A., Watson, I., & Williams, S. (2012). Fire regime shifts affect bird species distributions. Diversity and Distributions, 18(3), 213-225.

Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., & Kutt, A. S. (2012). Projected changes in distributions of Australian tropical savanna birds under climate change using three dispersal scenarios. Ecology and Evolution, 2(4), 705-718.

Reside, A. E., VanDerWal, J., Garnett, S. T., & Kutt, A. S. (2016). Vulnerability of Australian tropical savanna birds to climate change. Austral Ecology, 41(1), 106-116.

bottom of page