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Impacts on Terrestrial  and Freshwater Biodiversity: Species


What is happening

What might happen*





  • Mass die-offs of flying foxes in extreme heat36
  • Reduction in occurrence of platypus linked to increased maximum  temperatures37
  • Decline in koala distribution and density associated with drought38


  • Population declines, and distribution shifts - most likely poleward and/or to higher altitudes39,40,41,42,43
  • Changed community dynamics as species distributions and life cycles change44
  • Decline in palatability of leaves for species such as koalas 45
  • Increased mortality due to extreme heat stress, e.g. in tropical montane marsupials46





  • Changes in timing of life cycle events, including breeding and migration47,48,49,50
  • Breeding failures in a number of species48,51,52
  • Shifts in average body size, some passerine species becoming smaller47,53
  • Heat-related deaths in Carnaby’s cockatoos54
  • Decline in wetland bird populations associated with reduced flooding extent and frequency55
  • Shifts in distributional and altitudinal ranges, most commonly to higher latitudes and altitudes49,56





  • Negative impacts on foraging behavior and success with seasonality changes57,58
  • Reduced breeding success in beach nesting species with sea level rise50
  • Increased heat-related deaths59


  • Shifts in sex ratios (more males in colder conditions) in a live-bearing skink60
  • Indirect effects on survival due to impacts on prey species61
  • Declines in freshwater turtles associated with drought and habitat drying62
  • Altered thermoregulatory behavior and microhabitat use in oviparous species with temperature dependent sex determination63
  • Reduced  breeding and offspring success due to higher incubation temperatures64
  • Reduction in growth rates in juvenile Western Swamp Tortoise65
  • Estuarine crocodiles could move southward, increasing human-crocodile conflict66


  • Population declines associated with drought67
  • Alpine, bog and peatland species threatened by drying and fire impacts68,69
  • Tropical and high elevation  species negatively affected by changes to seasonal rainfall and increased temperatures70
  • Reduced soil moisture may decrease egg survival and fitness71,72
  • Loss of ephemeral breeding ponds and sites73
  • Increasing temperatures could result in faster development and emergence times in some species74
  • Terrestrial breeding frogs vulnerable from delayed Autumn rains75
  • Potential for climate change to increase the prevalence of the amphibian chytrid fungus76





  • Genetic and distribution changes, reflecting a warmer climate,  in Drosophila (fruit fly)77,78
  • Earlier  emergence time of the common brown butterfly79
  • Declines in species richness80



  • Shifts in community composition - higher species richness at more temperate latitudes81,82
  • Disruption and mis-timing of plant-pollinator relationships83
  • Mismatch between pest species and their natural enemies84

Freshwater Fish

  • Decline in five fish species of conservation significance, associated with prolonged drought, in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin85
  •  Range contractions as a result of rising water temperature, altered flows and habitat loss 86
  • Invasive species predicted to increase and spread87
  • Increases in salinity expected to negatively affect species in the Murray-Darling River, South-West Western Australia88and Kakadu89
  • Species preferring cold-water most likely to be under stress in Murray-Darling Basin, especially in Lower Murray Region 90





  • Decline in ecological condition, as measured by macroinvertebrates, in  Victoria91
  • Widespread reduction in species that prefer cooler, fast-flowing water bodies92
  • Decline in warm temperature intolerant species93
  • Increased distribution of invasive New Zealand freshwater snails87
  • Loss of habitat for burrowing crayfish94


  • Phenological shifts including earlier flowering times95,96,78
  • Drought-related death in the Tasmanian Miena Cider Gum97
  • Decline in sphagnum moss in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Macquarie Island98,99
  • Earlier flowering in some orchids 100
  • Preferred climate for seedling development may move beyond dispersal distance, resulting in seedling establishment failure101
  • Weed species will shift range, altering community dynamics and competitive Interactions102,103
  • Increased mortality during drought of heat-sensitive species104
  • Further shifts in flowering times - most predicted to flower earlier96
  • Breeding failures due to loss/mis-match of pollinators105
  • Some obligate seeding species may experience temperatures too high for germination to occur106
  • Potential negative impacts of wildfires on long-lived endemics 107

* There is a very real potential for the extinction of many species, particularly endemic species in mountain ecosystems. Predicting extinction is difficult, however, many studies in Australia, and globally, predict extremely severe declines and potential extinctions across a wide range of taxonomic groups and ecosystems209,210,211,212,213,214

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