Predicted climate change, sea-level rise and wetland management in the Australian wet-dry tropics
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The vulnerability of coastal areas in the Alligator Rivers Region (northern Australia) to predicted climate change and potential sea level rise was assessed as part of a national study. The coastal area is composed of a number of estuarine and freshwater habitats that are intricately interlinked and can not be effectively managed in isolation of each other. The outcomes of the assessment focused on the floodplain environments of the region, but are also applicable to the broader wetland environments that occur across the northern Australian wet-dry tropics. The management regime in the region is based on traditional Aboriginal ownership of much of the land, which is leased to the federal government as a national park. Scientific research has been intensive; however, important questions have been raised about the collation and effective use of this information. The vulnerability assessment framework required effective use of this information and cooperation with the management authority to identify change scenarios and management and research responses. A climate change scenario was established as the basis for predicting biophysical change in the coastal and wetland environments. The predictions suggest that large-scale change will occur and many of the existing values derived from these areas (i.e., usage by traditional Aboriginal occupants, and nature conservation) could be degraded or even lost. Recommended management responses include the initiation of specific monitoring, empowerment of local bodies to take active management steps, and to increase awareness of the likely consequences of change. Further data coordination and review are needed to ascertain the validity of the predictions and the concomitant management responses.
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