12.3 C
Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Mega biodiversity loss from mega drought

Latest News

Local sailor triumphs in blustery Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race

Local sailor Craig Watson battled near gale-force winds on Coopers to have one of his best ever Brisbane to Gladstone yacht races claiming fourth place in line honours.

Other News

Northern Rivers Food Harvest food trail will return in 2021!

The Northern Rivers Food Harvest Food Trail, to be held on the weekend of 1–2 May 2021, is guaranteed to be a very Northern Rivers experience, reflecting and celebrating the distinctive provenance of our region’s food. The Trail will offer lots of wonderful eating and drinking experiences; being jam-packed with our most-acclaimed restaurants, producers, farmers and growers.

NSW coal power stations still emitting dangerous levels of air pollution

New National Pollutant Inventory data shows that toxic air emissions from the state’s coal-fired power stations fell 15% in the year to June 2020, but they are still among the most polluting industrial facilities in NSW.

Character test for PM without much

Over Easter I visited a friend who’s spent decades doing her best to protect old growth forests, preserve human connection with nature in the raw and help save our planet from the climate emergency.

Half-price quarantine a step in the right direction, says NSW Farmers’ Association

NSW Farmers’ Association says it's pleased that calls for the subsidisation of quarantine costs for agricultural workers have been heard by the NSW Government.

Mullum farmer’s market closed this Friday

This Friday's Mullum Farmer's Market has been cancelled due to the decimation of the site by rain.

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 14 April, 2021

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 14 April, 2021

The dry riverbed of the Barka (Darling) River at Wilcannia. Photo Tree Faerie.

The east coast is lush and green after regular rainfall through autumn and winter, so it’s easy to forget that much of the interior is still suffering from a devastating drought. The CSIRO are looking to history to help assess this 21st century dry.

Researchers have painstakingly reconstructed the nation’s ‘once in a century drought’ of the early 1900s, revealing that it caused mass ecosystem collapse and dramatic declines in plant and animal populations across more than a third of the continent.

As part of efforts to prepare for and adapt to future droughts, CSIRO ecologists recreated the megadrought through historical records, including the study of tens of thousands of newspaper articles, to build a picture of the event’s effects on the nation published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

CSIRO researcher Dr Robert Godfree said with many of Australia’s landscapes more fragmented and degraded, and species under pressure from invasive plants and animals, a similar drought today could spell disaster on an even more devastating scale.

Australia’s Federation Drought

Australia’s Federation Drought, spanning 1895 to 1903, was one of the world’s worst recorded megadroughts. Much of the country received less than 40 per cent of its average rainfall, and 1902 was the driest year on record.

‘Australia saw widespread economic depression. In New South Wales, most rivers stopped flowing. Dust storms filled dams, buried homesteads and created ghost towns as people fled,’ said Dr Godfree.

‘Wildlife and stock starved or died of thirst. Native birds and mammals died under trees, in creeks, and on the plains. Tens of millions of sheep and cattle were killed, and hundreds of millions of rabbits died of starvation after stripping the landscape of its plant life.’

Ecologists found this megadrought also saw significant effects on Australia’s unique biodiversity.

‘The Federation Drought had the biggest documented impact on plants and animals across a continent yet studied,’ said Dr Godfree.

‘In Australia, more than 60 bird, fish, mammal, reptile, and plant genera were severely affected across 2.8 million km2 or more than a third of Australia.

‘Herbivores, grain-eating birds, fish and plants were most vulnerable, while predators who could feed on dead animals and other groups like waterbirds who could travel long distances were less impacted.’

The reconstruction relied on the study of historical newspaper articles over an expanded time period around the drought, sourced from the National Library of Australia.

37,000 historical newspaper articles read

‘Of the 37,000 newspaper articles we read, over 1,500 referred to the drought and more than 400 provided information about local impacts on native and animals or plants,’ said Dr Godfree.

‘We overlaid this with historical rainfall records and travelled to severely impacted areas, many of which still show effects of the drought to this day.

‘We were also able to use resources from CSIRO’s National Research Collections Australia to determine what was impacted and where.

Dr Godfree said the historic study provides lessons for the possible future impacts of droughts on biodiversity, and shows megadroughts can be potent drivers of rapid, macro-scale ecosystem degradation and collapse.

‘CSIRO is tacking the great challenges, such as drought, through innovative science and technology.

‘In the future, we hope to be able to determine whether a location is at immediate risk of biodiversity loss during extreme drought and take action to prevent it.

‘We’re looking to do this through reviewing recent rainfall data and using this to determine which areas, but also which ecosystems and species are on the brink of decline. These are complex systems these changes can occur suddenly.

‘Right now, we need to focus on building resilience to drought by maintaining healthy ecosystems as an insurance against future drought impacts.’


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Local girls go big at Oz grom cup

Byron Bay’s Leihani Kaloha Zoric won her second Billabong Oz Grom Cup title, taking out the 10-and-under girls division at Park beach in Coffs Harbour last weekend.

Sprout lovers

Sprouts can sometimes be overlooked on the weekly grocery list… except for those in the know, of course!

Interview with Mitch King from Dream Bigger

Dream Bigger is presenting Lismore Youth Festival in partnership with numerous organisations in Lismore. Dream Bigger connects established artists with potential future artists to make their ideas a reality through engaging workshops and collaboration. The Echo spoke to Mitch King from Dream Bigger.

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 14 April, 2021

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 14 April, 2021