Climate change

Climate change is a fact. It is measured by the variability in patterns of several conditions (temperature, rainfall, CO2 levels, ocean acidity, storm severity, ocean sea levels, etc) that are critical for life on Earth.

Throughout Earth’s 4.6 billion years of evolution there have always been changes to climate. At their extreme these changes have led to multiple mass extinctions of entire life forms (phyla), with 5 major and many lesser extinction events recorded in the geological record. Smaller, more gradual changes to the atmosphere, the ocean and to conditions on land also encourage species to change. Species adapt and change through the processes of natural selection in response to changes in these environmental conditions, but this evolution occurs over long periods of time.

The climate change debate is not about whether climate change occurs, but about the rate at which it continues to occur and the extent to which human civilisation is changing greenhouse gas levels (through over-population, industrialisation, fossil fuel consumption, other pollution, land clearing) that are causing the present, rapid changes to our climate patterns. Evidence for these changes is overwhelming at worldwide, Australian and Queensland state levels.

The impacts of climate change in Queensland is one of the biggest environmental challenges the state faces. 

Our research into responses to climate change

Research by Queensland Museum scientists contributes to the documentation of how species respond and adapt to change, for both the fossil and living faunas.

Our goal is to investigate the impacts and responses by species to climate change phenomena, from the perspective of small changes in distributions (time frames of several years), to medium term habitat shifts at the landscape level (periods spanning 20–100 years), to long term changes at the evolutionary level of geological time scales (millions of years).

Current projects include: 

  • Environmental monitoring / reptile and amphibian population trends in response to climate change.
  • Emergence and persistence of a globally dominant reef coral family and future prospects in a changing world (ARC Linkage grant).
  • Biodiversity at the Heights (BATH/ IBISCA project) - Altitudinal survey of invertebrates at Lamington National Park.
  • Terrestrial invertebrate pest surveys of the Capricornia Cays.
  • Baseline biodiversity surveys of marine reef invertebrates as indicators of climate induced population shifts in coral reef ecosystems.
  • Assessing adaptation along temperature gradients in freshwater biota and implications of climate change for aquatic biodiversity.
  • Spider invasions: infestations, extinctions and southern migrations and altitudinal changes of spiders over short time scales.
  • Rainforest reptile and amphibian population trends in response to climate change.
  • High latitude reef corals of Australia and Japan. Comparison of species diversity, molecular biology and responses to climate change.
  • Conservation biology of the Mahogany Glider Petaurus gracilis.
  • Conservation biology of the Water Mouse Xeromys myoides.
  • Conservation biology of the Atherton Antechinus Antechinus godmani.
  • Phylogeography, marine connectivity and survivorship of deep sea and seamount "living fossil" sponge faunas in the western Pacific using ROV and manned submersibles.
  • Ecological monitoring and baseline studies - A Bayesian framework for metapopulation dynamics for species in endangered communities.
  • Conserving species in human-modified landscapes: incorporating spatial population processes.
  • Australia’s mangrove and intertidal crab fauna with documentation of current distributional limits in regard to changes in range as a result of climate change and warming seas.
  • Taxonomy and palaeoecology on fossil molluscs from peri-reefal deposits in northern Australia.
  • Environmental change in northern Cenozoic Australia: a multidisciplinary approach (ARC Linkage grant).
  • Quaternary environmental variability in marine and terrestrial sediments in tropical eastern Australia (ARC Discovery grant).
  • Megafauna at Mount Etna, a prime level research project with major implications for recent (<1Ma) climate and faunal change (UNSW collaboration).
  • Antipodean Ark focusing on 'modern' Australia as an isolated island-continent.
  • Humans, environmental change and faunal succession on Sulawesi, Indonesia (ARC Linkage grant).
  • Volcanism as a major determinant of marine invertebrate dispersal.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.