Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Projected climate change in Australian marine and freshwater environments

Alistair J. Hobday A C and Janice M. Lough B

A Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Qld 4810, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: alistair.hobday@csiro.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(9) 1000-1014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10302
Submitted: 1 December 2010  Accepted: 29 July 2011   Published: 21 September 2011

Abstract

Changes in the physical environment of aquatic systems consistent with climate change have been reported across Australia, with impacts on many marine and freshwater species. The future state of aquatic environments can be estimated by extrapolation of historical trends. However, because the climate is a complex non-linear system, a more process-based approach is probably required, in particular the use of dynamical projections using climate models. Because global climate models operate on spatial scales that typically are too coarse for aquatic biologists, statistical or dynamical downscaling of model output is proposed. Challenges in using climate projections exist; however, projections for some marine and freshwater systems are possible. Higher oceanic temperatures are projected around Australia, particularly for south-eastern Australia. The East Australia Current is projected to transport greater volumes of water southward, whereas the Leeuwin Current on the western coast may weaken. On land, projections suggest that air temperatures will rise and rainfall will decline across much of Australia in coming decades. Together, these changes will result in reduced runoff and hence reduced stream flow and lake storage. Present climate models are particularly limited with regard to coastal and freshwater systems, making the models challenging to use for biological-impact and adaptation studies.

Additional keywords: climate-change impacts, freshwater fishes, future climate scenarios, global climate model, marine fishes.


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