How will eucalypts cope with climate change? Nathalie Butt recently led the first comprehensive investigation into the vulnerability of eucalypt distributions to climate change across Australia. The investigation revealed that overall, eucalypt species in the central desert and open woodland regions will be the most affected, losing 40% of their climate space under the extreme climate scenario. The least affected species, in eastern Australia, are likely to lose 20% of their climate space under the extreme scenario.
As well as the climate threat faced by the trees themselves, cascading impacts on eucalypt-dependent species and communities will be far-reaching. And that applies to the ecosystem services and landscape-scale bio-climate processes that eucalypt communities contribute to.
In terms of conservation planning, the results are also significant. Restoration efforts in particular may have to be reframed. Where areas set aside for restoration are currently climatically marginal, and in future will be no longer climatically suitable, the prospects of restoring such areas must be questioned. Establishing trees in such landscapes is extremely difficult and entails financial risk.
Butt N, LJ Pollock & CA McAlprine (2013). Eucalypts face increasing climate stress. Ecology and Evolution. 3: 5011–5022.