CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Wildlife Research   
Wildlife Research
Journal Banner
  Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 38(2)

Modelling climate-change-induced shifts in the distribution of the koala

Christine Adams-Hosking A C, Hedley S. Grantham B, Jonathan R. Rhodes A B, Clive McAlpine A B and Patrick T. Moss A

A The University of Queensland, Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group, Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, School of Geography, Planning, and Environmental Management, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
B The University of Queensland, The Ecology Centre, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: c.hosking@uq.edu.au

Wildlife Research 38(2) 122-130 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10156
Submitted: 6 September 2010  Accepted: 4 February 2011   Published: 20 April 2011

PDF (452 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Context: The impacts of climate change on the climate envelopes, and hence, distributions of species, are of ongoing concern for biodiversity worldwide. Knowing where climate refuge habitats will occur in the future is essential to conservation planning. The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species highly vulnerable to climate change. However, the impact of climate change on its distribution is poorly understood.

Aims: We aimed to predict the likely shifts in the climate envelope of the koala throughout its natural distribution under various climate change scenarios and identify potential future climate refugia.

Methods: To predict possible future koala climate envelopes we developed bioclimatic models using Maxent, based on a substantial database of locality records and several climate change scenarios.

Key results: The predicted current koala climate envelope was concentrated in south-east Queensland, eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria, which generally showed congruency with their current known distribution. Under realistic projected future climate change, with the climate becoming increasingly drier and warmer, the models showed a significant progressive eastward and southward contraction in the koala’s climate envelope limit in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The models also indicated novel potentially suitable climate habitat in Tasmania and south-western Australia.

Conclusions: Under a future hotter and drier climate, current koala distributions, based on their climate envelope, will likely contract eastwards and southwards to many regions where koala populations are declining due to additional threats of high human population densities and ongoing pressures from habitat loss, dog attacks and vehicle collisions. In arid and semi-arid regions such as the Mulgalands of south-western Queensland, climate change is likely to compound the impacts of habitat loss, resulting in significant contractions in the distribution of this species.

Implications: Climate change pressures will likely change priorities for allocating conservation efforts for many species. Conservation planning needs to identify areas that will provide climatically suitable habitat for a species in a changing climate. In the case of the koala, inland habitats are likely to become climatically unsuitable, increasing the need to protect and restore the more mesic habitats, which are under threat from urbanisation. National and regional koala conservation policies need to anticipate these changes and synergistic threats. Therefore, a proactive approach to conservation planning is necessary to protect the koala and other species that depend on eucalypt forests.

Additional keywords: Australia, climate envelope, climate refuge habitats, Maxent, synergistic threats.


Allison, I., Bindoff, N. L., Bindschaller, R. A., Cox, P. M., de Noblet, N., England, M. H., Francis, J. E., Gruber, N., Haywood, A. M., Karoly, D. J., Kaser, G., Le Quéré, C., Lenton, T. M., Mann, M. E., McNeil, B. I., Pitman, A. J., Rahmstorf, S., Rignot, E., Schellnhuber, H. J., Schneider, S. H., Sherwood, S. C., Somerville, R. C. J., Steffen, K., Steig, E. J., Visbeck, M., and Weaver, A. J. (2009). ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science.’ (The University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC): Sydney, Australia.)

Archer, M. (1972). Phascolarctos (Marsupialia, Vombatoidea) and associated fossil fauna from Koala Cave near Yanchep, Western Australia. Helictite 10, 49–59.

Archer, M., Hand, S. J., and Godthelp, H. (1991). ‘Riversleigh: the Story of Animals in Ancient Rainforests of Inland Australia.’ (Reed Books: Chatswood, NSW.)

Australian Government (2009). National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009–2014. Available at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/koala-strategy/index.html [accessed August 2010]. (National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy Steering Committee Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council: Canberra.)

BOM (2003). ‘Gridded Climatological Data.’ (Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology: Canberra.)

BOM (2009). Bushfires in Victoria, 7–8 February 2009. Available at http://www.bom.gov.au/vic/sevwx/fire/20090207/20090207_bushfire.shtml [accessed April 2010]. (Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, Canberra.)

Box, E. O. (1981). Predicting physiognomic vegetation types with climate variables. Plant Ecology 45, 127–139.
CrossRef |

Byrne, M. (2008). Evidence for multiple refugia at different time scales during Pleistocene climatic oscillations in southern Australia inferred from phylogeography. Quaternary Science Reviews 27, 2576–2585.
CrossRef |

Carroll, C., Dunk, J. R., and Moilanens, A. (2010). Optimizing resiliency of reserve networks to climate change: multispecies conservation planning in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. Global Change Biology 16, 891–904.
CrossRef |

Clifton, I. D., Ellis, W. A. H., Melzer, A., and Tucker, G. (2007). Water turnover and the northern range of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Australian Mammalogy 29, 85–88.

Cristescu, R., Cahill, V., Sherwin, W. B., Handasyde, K., Carlyon, K., Whisson, D., Herbert, C. A., Carlsson, B. L. J., Wilton, A. N., and Cooper, D. W. (2009). Inbreeding and testicular abnormalities in a bottlenecked population of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). Wildlife Research 36, 299–308.
CrossRef |

Crowther, M. S., McAlpine, C. A., Lunney, D., Shannon, I., and Bryant, J. V. (2009). Using broad-scale, community survey data to compare species conservation strategies across regions: a case study of the koala in a set of adjacent catchments. Ecological Management & Restoration 10, S88–S96.
CrossRef |

CSIRO (2007). Climate Change in Australia – Technical Report 2007. Available at http://www.csiro.au/resources/Climate-Change-Technical-Report-2007.html [accessed April 2010]. (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation: Canberra.)

CSIRO (2010). OzClim Advanced. Available at http://www.csiro.au/ozclim/advanced2.do [accessed August 2010]. (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation: Canberra.)

DECC (2008). ‘Atlas of NSW Wildlife Database for Fauna and Flora Data.’ (Department of Environment and Climate Change: Sydney.)

DERM (2008). ‘WildNet Data.’ (Department of Environment and Resource Management: Brisbane.)

DERM (2009). Decline of the Koala Coast Koala Population: Population Status in 2008. Available at http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/koalas/koala_plan/decline_of_the_koala_coast_koala_population_population_status_in_2008.html [accessed April 2010]. (Department of Environment and Resource Management: Queensland.)

DERM (2010). Koala Habitat Programs. Available at http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/koalas/koala_crisis_response_strategy/koala-habitat-programs.html [accessed August 2010]. (Department of Environment and Resource Management: Queensland.)

DSE (2008). ‘Koala Localities.’ (Department of Sustainability and Environment: Victoria.)

Duka, T., and Masters, P. (2005). Confronting a tough issue: fertility control and translocation for over-abundant koalas on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration 6, 172–181.
CrossRef |

Elith, J., and Graham, C. H. (2009). Do they? How do they? WHY do they differ? On finding reasons for differing performances of species distribution models. Ecography 32, 66–77.
CrossRef |

Elith, J., Graham, C. H., Anderson, R. P., Dudík, M., Ferrier, S., Guisan, A., Hijmans, R. J., Huettmann, F., Leathwick, J. R., Lehmann, A., Li, J., Lohmann, L. G., Loiselle, B. A., Manion, G., Moritz, C., Nakamura, M., Nakazawa, Y., Overton, J. M. M., Townsend Peterson, A., Phillips, S. J., Richardson, K., Scachetti-Pereira, R., Schapire, R. E., Soberón, J., Williams, S., Wisz, M. S., and Zimmermann, N. E. (2006). Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29, 129–151.

Ellis, W., Melzer, A., Clifton, I. D., and Carrick, F. (2010). Climate change and the koala Phascolarctos cinereus: water and energy. Australian Zoologist 35, 369–377.

Fischer, J., Sherren, K., Stott, J., Zerger, A., Warren, G., and Stein, J. (2010). Toward landscape-wide conservation outcomes in Australia’s temperate grazing region. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8, 69–74.
CrossRef |

Fitzpatrick, M. C., and Hargrove, W. W. (2009). The projection of species distribution models and the problem of non-analog climate. Biodiversity and Conservation 18, 2255–2261.
CrossRef |

Fitzpatrick, M. C., Gove, A. D., Sanders, N. J., and Dunn, R. R. (2008). Climate change, plant migration, and range collapse in a global biodiversity hotspot: the Banksia (Proteaceae) of Western Australia. Global Change Biology 14, 1337–1352.
CrossRef |

Giam, X., Bradshaw, C. J. A., Tan, H. T. W., and Sodhi, N. S. (2010). Future habitat loss and the conservation of plant biodiversity. Biological Conservation 143, 1594–1602.
CrossRef |

Gibson, L., McNeill, A., Tores, P. D., Wayne, A., and Yates, C. (2010). Will future climate change threaten a range restricted endemic species, the quokka (Setonix brachyurus), in south west Australia? Biological Conservation 143, 2453–2461.
CrossRef |

Gordon, G., Brown, A. S., and Pulsford, T. (1988). A koala (Phascolarctos cinereus Goldfuss) population crash during drought and heatwave conditions in south-western Queensland. Austral Ecology 13, 451–461.
CrossRef |

Gordon, G., Hrdina, F., and Patterson, R. (2006). Decline in the distribution of the koala Phascolarctos cinereus in Queensland. Australian Zoologist 33, 345–354.

Hardy, P., Kinder, P., Sparks, T., and Dennis, R. (2010). Elevation and habitats: the potential of sites at different altitudes to provide refuges for phytophagous insects during climatic fluctuations. Journal of Insect Conservation 14, 297–303.
CrossRef |

Hijmans, R. J., and Graham, C. H. (2006). The ability of climate envelope models to predict the effect of climate change on species distributions. Global Change Biology 12, 2272–2281.
CrossRef |

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Hughes, L., McIntyre, S., Lindenmayer, D. B., Parmesan, C., Possingham, H. P., and Thomas, C. D. (2008). ECOLOGY: Assisted colonization and rapid climate change. Science 321, 345–346.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Hughes, L., Cawsey, E. M., and Westoby, M. (1996). Climatic range sizes of Eucalyptus species in relation to future climate change. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 5, 23–29.
CrossRef |

Hutchinson, G. E. (1957). Concluding remarks. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 22, 415–427.

IPCC (2007). Summary for policymakers. In ‘Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’. (Eds S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H. L. Miller.) (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge and New York.)

IUCN (2009). Koalas and Climate Change. Available at http://www.iucnredlist.org [accessed August 2010]. (International Union for Conservation of Nature: Switzerland.)

Kearney, M. R., Wintle, B. A., and Porter, W. P. (2010). Correlative and mechanistic models of species distribution provide congruent forecasts under climate change. Conservation Letters 3, 203–213.

Kleijn, D., Kohler, K., Báldi, A., Batáry, P., Concepción, E. D., Clough, Y., Díaz, M., Gabriel, D., Holzschuh, A., Knop, E., Kovács, A., Marshall, E. J. P., Tscharntke, T., and Verhulst, J. (2009). On the relationship between farmland biodiversity and land-use intensity in Europe. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 276, 903–909.
CrossRef | CAS |

Lawler, J. J., White, D., Neilson, R. P., and Blaustein, A. R. (2006). Predicting climate-induced range shifts: model differences and model reliability. Global Change Biology 12, 1568–1584.
CrossRef |

Lindenmayer, D. B., Steffen, W., Burbidge, A. A., Hughes, L., Kitching, R. L., Musgrave, W., Stafford Smith, M., and Werner, P. A. (2010). Conservation strategies in response to rapid climate change: Australia as a case study. Biological Conservation 143, 1587–1593.
CrossRef |

Liu, C., Berry, P. M., Dawson, T. P., and Pearson, R. G. (2005). Selecting thresholds of occurrence in the prediction of species distributions. Ecography 28, 385–393.
CrossRef |

Louys, J., Black, K., Archer, M., Hand, S. J., and Godthelp, H. (2007). Descriptions of koala fossils from the Miocene of Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland and implications for Litokoala (Marsupialia, Phascolarctidae). Alcheringa 31, 99–110.
CrossRef |

Luck, G. W. (2007). A review of the relationships between human population density and biodiversity. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 82, 607–645.
CrossRef | PubMed |

McAlpine, C. A., Bowen, M. E., Callaghan, J. G., Lunney, D., Rhodes, J. R., Mitchell, D. L., Pullar, D. V., and Possingham, H. P. (2006). Testing alternative models for the conservation of koalas in fragmented rural-urban landscapes. Austral Ecology 31, 529–544.
CrossRef |

McAlpine, C. A., Skytus, J., Ryan, J. G., Deo, R. C., McKeon, G. M., McGowan, H. A., and Phinn, S. R. (2009). A continent under stress: interactions, feedbacks and risks associated with impact of modified land cover on Australia’s climate. Global Change Biology 15, 2206–2223.
CrossRef |

McInnes, L. M., Gillett, A., Ryan, U. M., Austen, J., Campbell, R. S. F., Hanger, J., and Reid, S. A. (2009). Trypanosoma irwini n. sp. (Sarcomastigophora : Trypanosomatidae) from the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Parasitology 136, 875–885.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

McKenney, D. W., Pedlar, J. H., Lawrence, K., Campbell, K., and Hutchinson, M. F. (2007). Beyond traditional hardiness zones: using climate envelopes to map plant range limits. Bioscience 57, 929–937.
CrossRef |

McLachlan, J. S., Hellmann, J. J., and Schwartz, M. W. (2007). A framework for debate of assisted migration in an era of climate change. Conservation Biology 21, 297–302.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Merrilees, D. (1967). Man the destroyer: late Quaternary changes in the Australian marsupial fauna. The Royal Society of Western Australia 51, 1–24.

Mitchell, C. M., Mathews, S. A., Theodoropoulos, C., and Timms, P. (2009). In vitro characterisation of koala Chlamydia pneumoniae: morphology, inclusion development and doubling time. Veterinary Microbiology 136, 91–99.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Moore, B. D., and Foley, W. J. (2005). Tree use by koalas in a chemically complex landscape. Nature 435, 488–490.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Moore, B. D., Wallis, I. R., Wood, J. T., and Foley, W. J. (2004). Foliar nutrition, site quality, and temperature influence foliar chemistry of tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys). Ecological Monographs 74, 553–568.
CrossRef |

Moore, B. D., Foley, W. J., Wallis, I. R., Cowling, A., and Handasyde, K. A. (2005). Eucalyptus foliar chemistry explains selective feeding by koalas. Biology Letters 1, 64–67.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Nix, H. A. (1986). A biogeographic analysis of Australian elapid snakes. In ‘Atlas of Elapid Snakes of Australia’. (Ed. R. Longmore.) pp 4–15. Bureau of Flora and Fauna, Australian Flora and Fauna Series Number 7. (Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.)

Pearson, R. G., Dawson, T. P., Berry, P. M., and Harrison, P. A. (2002). SPECIES: a spatial evaluation of climate impact on the envelope of species. Ecological Modelling 154, 289–300.
CrossRef |

Peterson, A. T., Ortega-Huerta, M. A., Bartley, J., Sánchez-Cordero, V., Soberón, J., Buddemeier, R. H., and Stockwell, D. R. B. (2002). Future projections for Mexican faunas under global climate change scenarios. Nature 416, 626–629.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Phillips, S. J., Dudik, M., and Schapire, R. E. (2004). A maximum entropy approach to species distribution modeling. In ‘Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Machine Learning’. p. 8. (Banff, Canada.)

Phillips, S. J., Anderson, R. P., and Schapire, R. E. (2006). Maximum entropy modelling of species geographic distributions. Ecological Modelling 190, 231–259.
CrossRef |

Raupach, M. R., Canadell, J. G., and Le Quere, C. (2008). Anthropogenic and biophysical contributions to increasing atmospheric CO2 growth rate and airborne fraction. Biogeosciences Discussions 5, 2867–2896.
CrossRef |

Rhodes, J. R., Callaghan, J. G., McAlpine, C. A., De Jong, C., Bowen, M. E., Mitchell, D. L., Lunney, D., and Possingham, H. P. (2008). Regional variation in habitat-occupancy thresholds: a warning for conservation planning. Journal of Applied Ecology 45, 549–557.
CrossRef |

Sinclair, S. J., White, M. D., and Newell, G. R. (2010). How useful are species distribution models for managing biodiversity under future climates? Ecology and Society 15, –8.

Sodhi, N. S., Bickford, D., Diesmos, A. C., Lee, T. M., Koh, L. P., Brook, B. W., Sekercioglu, C. H., and Bradshaw, C. J. A. (2008). Measuring the meltdown: drivers of global amphibian extinction and decline. PLoS ONE 3, e1636.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Steffen, W. (2009). Climate Change 2009 Faster Change and More Serious Risks. Available at http://www.anu.edu.au/climatechange/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/climate-change-faster-change-and-more-serious-risks-final.pdf [accessed March 2010]. (Australian Government Department of Climate Change: Canberra.)

Stirton, R. A. (1957). A new koala from the Pliocene Palankarinna fauna of South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum 13, 71–81.

Thuiller, W., Brotons, L., Araújo, M. B., and Lavorel, S. (2004). Effects of restricting environmental range of data to project current and future species distributions. Ecography 27, 165–172.
CrossRef |

Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (2009). Condition on the Day. Parliament of Victoria, Australia. Available at http://vol4.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/index.php?pid=1 [accessed October 2010]. (Parliament of Victoria 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission: Australia.)

Wiens, J. A., Stralberg, D., Jongsomjit, D., Howell, C. A., and Snyder, M. A. (2009). Niches, models, and climate change: assessing the assumptions and uncertainties. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, 19 729–19 736.
CrossRef | CAS |

Williams, J. W., and Jackson, S. T. (2007). Novel climates, no-analog communities, and ecological surprises. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5, 475–482.
CrossRef |

Woodward, W., Ellis, W., Carrick, F. N., Tanizaki, M., Bowen, D., and Smith, P. (2008). Koalas on North Stradbroke Island: diet, tree use and reconstructed landscapes. Wildlife Research 35, 606–611.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016