Modelling impacts of vegetation cover change on regional climate

McAlpine, Clive A. and Syktus, Jozef I. and Deo, Ravinesh C. and Lawrence, Peter J. and McGowan, Hamish A. and Watterson, Ian G. and Phinn, Stuart R. (2009) Modelling impacts of vegetation cover change on regional climate. Project Report. Land and Water Australia , Canberra, Australia. [Report]

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Abstract

Extensive areas of native vegetation in Queensland and other states have been cleared for agriculture, improved pastures and urban development. However, the potential impact of land clearing on Australia’s climate has been largely ignored in current climate change projections and policies. In this study, we addressed the question - is Australia’s regional climate sensitive to land cover
change?

We conducted simulation experiments using the CSIRO MARK 3 climate model to compare the effects on regional climate based on differences between pre-European and 1990 vegetation cover. The two experiments aimed to reproduce the Australian climate for the period 1951-2003, with the only difference being the conversion of land cover from native vegetation to pastures and crops. Consistent with actual climate trends since the 1950s, simulated annual and seasonal surface temperatures showed statistically significant warming for eastern Australia (0.4-2°C) and southwest Western Australia (0.4-0.8°C), being most pronounced in summer. Mean summer rainfall showed a decrease of 4-12% in eastern Australia and 4-8% in southwest
Western Australia which coincided with regions where the most extensive land clearing has occurred. Further, the study found an increase in temperatures on average by 2°C, especially in southern Queensland and New South Wales, for the recent 2002/2003 drought.

The findings suggest that the large scale clearance of native vegetation is amplifying the adverse impacts associated with El Niño drought periods, which together with rainfall deficiency, is having a strong impact on Australia’s already stressed natural resources and agriculture.

Implications for Policy: We suggest that policy needs to recognise that climate change is a two-way process, and that broad scale clearing of native vegetation cover has a strong influence on climate in
addition to greenhouse gases. Protecting and restoring Australia's native vegetation therefore needs to
be a critical policy and management consideration in mitigating the effects of climate change.


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Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Project Report: Funded by Land & Water Australia.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2013 02:51
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2013 22:38
Uncontrolled Keywords: modelling impacts; vegetation cover change; regional climate
Fields of Research : 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040104 Climate Change Processes
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040102 Atmospheric Dynamics
Socio-Economic Objective: D Environment > 96 Environment > 9602 Atmosphere and Weather > 960202 Atmospheric Processes and Dynamics
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts)
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/22824

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