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Climate change and Australia’s primary industries: factors hampering an effective and coordinated response


Australia’s primary production sector operates in one of the world’s most variable climates with future climate change posing a challenge to its ongoing sustainability. Recognising this, Australia has invested in understanding climate change risks to primary production with a substantial amount of research produced. Recently, focus on this research space has broadened, with interests from the financial sector and expanded scopes of works from government and industry. These expanded needs require sector- and country-wide assessments to assist with the implementation of climate strategies. We considered the applicability of the current research body for these needs by reviewing 188 peer-reviewed studies that considered the quantitative impacts of climate change on Australia’s primary industries. Our broad review includes cropping, livestock, horticulture, forestry and fisheries and biosecurity threats. This is the first such review for Australia, and no other similar country-wide review was found. We reviewed the studies through three lenses, industry diversity, geographic coverage and study comparability. Our results show that all three areas are lacking for sector- and country-wide assessments. Industry diversity was skewed towards cropping and biosecurity threats (64% of all studies) with wheat in particular a major focus (25% of all studies). Geographic coverage at a state level appeared to be evenly distributed across the country; however, when considered in conjunction with industry focus, gaps emerged. Study comparability was found to be very limited due to the use of different historical baseline periods and different impact models. We make several recommendations to assist with future research directions, being (1) co-development of a standard set of method guidelines for impact assessments, (2) filling industry and geographic knowledge gaps, and (3) improving transparency in study method descriptions. Uptake of these recommendations will improve study application and transparency enabling and enhancing responses to climate change in Australia’s primary industries.

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  1. Mathematical models that simulate plant and/or animal growth as a function of environmental variables (e.g. climate and soil). Management options can also be integrated (e.g. fertiliser application, stocking rate).

  2. Mathematical models which consider climate and/or broader environmental suitability based on conditions in regions where the target species inhabit.


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Correspondence to Rebecca Olive Darbyshire.

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Darbyshire, R.O., Johnson, S.B., Anwar, M.R. et al. Climate change and Australia’s primary industries: factors hampering an effective and coordinated response. Int J Biometeorol 66, 1045–1056 (2022).

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  • Agriculture
  • Biosecurity
  • Climate change impact