Brisbane Times

27 May 2013

Earlier this month, Australia’s Big Four banks copped a serve over their support of the coal and gas extraction industries, focusing attention on the ways large banks' investment decisions can put the future of the Great Barrier Reef at risk. Read more




TREAT Newsletter

January 2013

Recent decades have seen a big shift in the public perception of rainforests – from being overwhelmingly viewed as an obstacle to be cleared for agriculture or felled as a source of timber, to being valued by many and mostly protected from further clearing. It is now also several decades since TREAT members and other dedicated restoration pioneers started to develop tree-planting methods aimed at returning a cover of rainforest to former agricultural land in areas of ecological importance. During that time there have been many successes. These include the development of effective revegetation techniques and the creation of continuous ribbons of restored rainforest stretching across the agricultural landscape, and protecting now-flowing streams that were once degraded bogs.


Cairns Post

25 May 2014

WHAT does a leaf-tailed gecko from Cape York have in common with an Antarctic glacier-dwelling sea anemone and a bright orange fungus?

All have been named in the world’s top 10 new species for 2014. Read more

05 June 2013

This coming Saturday, June 8, is World Oceans Day, a global event designed to celebrate the important role that the oceans play in keeping our planet a vibrant place for us to live. Throughout the day there will be hundreds of events taking place across the globe that will help educate us on the importance of keeping our oceans healthy, while raising awareness of the challenges they face in the 21st century. One such event is an ambitious 12-hour live tour of the Great Barrier Reef that will give us a very personal look at one of the most important and beautiful marine ecosystems on Earth. Read more



The Conversation

28 August 2013

Recent studies have shown several marine species are struggling to adapt to the excess carbon dioxide and heat which oceans are absorbing. Evidence is mounting of the risks we’re taking with our oceans.

Life is finely tuned to the physical and chemical conditions that surround it. This “tuning” is the result of thousands – if not millions – of years of natural selection, optimising the physiological and biochemical ways marine organisms respond to a naturally variable environment. Read more




Devlin, M., Brodie, J., Wengner, A., da Silva, E., Alvarez-Romero., J.G., Waterhouse, J., McKenzie, L. (2012) Chronic and acute influences on the Great Barrier Reef: Putting extreme weather conditions in context. ICRS proceedings.

National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility


Garnett, S.T., Franklin, D.C., Ehmke, G., VanDerWal, J.J., Hodgson, L., Pavey, C., Reside, A.E., Welbergen, J.A., Butchart, S.H.M., Perkins, G.C., Williams, S.E. (2013) Climate change adaptation strategies for Australian birds, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 925 pp.



Isaac, J.L., Williams, S.E. (2013) Climate change and extinctions, in: Encyclopedia of BiodiversityElsevier.


Related to Project 3.1

Climate change is expected to significantly affect global terrestrial biodiversity, with 57% of plant and 34% of animal species predicted to lose at least half their climatic ranges by the 2080’s1. Mitigation could reduce these losses by up to 60% if emissions are controlled and reduced over the next decade.1

Australia’s tropical rainforests are not immune to these effects according to a long-term study by Professor Stephen Williams and his team at the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University. Professor Williams says that future predictions of climate change impacts on vertebrates indicate that approximately one third of the vertebrate species in the rainforests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will be severely threatened, one third will be vulnerable and one third will not change or increase.

The study’s latest iteration is funded by the NERP TE Hub, and addresses questions of climate change vulnerability and resilience of tropical animals and habitats. The team is developing strategies to help minimise impacts on the region’s unique rainforest and biodiversity using available knowledge, existing datasets and strategic research. Improving our understanding of which species will be most vulnerable, and why, will help prioritise adaptation, maximise the region’s resilience, and maximise the “bang-for-our-buck” in management and conservation.

Latest results show movements and declines in some bird and mammal species, matching the predictions made by Williams ten years ago. For example, some rainforest ringtail possums have declined, or disappeared, at the lower edges of their ranges, while increasing in numbers at higher altitude. While such mountaintop species are declining in numbers, and contracting further up into the mountains, some widespread lowland species are expanding their ranges to include mountainous areas.

Management may be too late for some populations. In 2005, on one particular mountaintop within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), a population of lemuroid ringtail possums crashed after a heat-wave. This possum lives only in cool, misty high altitude rainforests and, according to Professor Williams and his collaborators, has lost the ability to cope with temperatures above 28°C over the course of evolutionary history. Unfortunately for the possums, the frequency, duration and intensity of summer heat-waves have increased over the last 50 years and, during one such event, the temperature rose above that critical level for several hours each day, for 28 days straight. With nowhere to go and no means of cooling themselves the population of possums on that mountaintop declined severely.

With such impacts threatening, it is important to understand the role and function of places in the landscape that act as refuges during extreme weather events. These “refugia” are places a species might survive when threatened by changing climatic conditions, although for species such as the lemuroid possum, such havens may not exist much longer. Professor Williams and team have come up with a number of ways to identify and characterise a variety of different types of climatic refugia. For example, epiphytes or spaces under logs will provide some protection for some species, acting as micro-refugia. Larger landscape refugia, such as cool shady gorges, may provide some short-term buffering of heat waves and droughts. Larger areas of climatic stability provide managers with insights that may help conservation planning at the state and national levels.

Research on the potential of refugia to help protect biodiversity from extreme weather events, and guide our adaptation strategies, is a vital part of the ongoing NERP projects lead by Professor Williams.

Male Satin Bowerbird. Credit: Mike Trenerry.
White Lemuroid. Credit: Mike Trenerry.

For further information contact:

Project: 3.1 Rainforest Biodiversity



ABC News

14 January 2014

It's been an escape technique for humpbacked conch snails for thousands of years - a flicking foot that is triggered when they smell predators.

But ocean acidification may put a hitch in the getaway of the snails with James Cook University researchers finding that the snails' jumping response is compromised as CO2 levels in the water rise. Read more