Impacts on Terrestrial Systems
Soils and Agricultural Land
The potential impacts of a warmer, drier and more variable climate on soils and the major agricultural industries in the East Gippsland region include:
- reduced water availability and security
- changes to growth of pasture and yield of crops
- altered carrying capacity and soil condition
- negative impacts on animal health
- physical damage due to more frequent and/or severe floods and fires, and
changed spread of pests, weeds and disease.
Compared to other parts of Victoria, the projected changes in temperature and rainfall by 2050 in East Gippsland will be more moderate. As a consequence, there may be more opportunities for adaptation and development of new enterprises in primary production than in other parts of Victoria and potential for increased production due to shifts in crops to Gippsland from other production areas.
The vulnerability of soils to climate change is strongly linked to the inherent properties of the soil as described by the soil type and the level of ground cover. In East Gippsland, soils were assessed as having a lower overall potential vulnerability to climate change compared with the other asset classes.
Native Vegetation and Fauna
Native vegetation is likely to be impacted by climate change through changes to annual rainfall and increased temperatures. In East Gippsland, gradual changes in the composition of vegetation communities are likely to occur as some species are replaced by others (i.e. woodlands into grasslands and wetlands, snow gums into subalpine grasslands). However for communities already close to threshold, in terms of extent or condition, these changes are likely to occur much sooner or, in the case of already degraded ecosystems, there may be an accelerated loss of diversity and structural integrity.
Indirect impacts on native vegetation may be more severe than direct impacts. Future changes to land management in response to both socio-economic and climate factors are likely to be important drivers of change in vegetation extent and condition. An increase in climate induced severity of existing threats, including fire and invasive plants, which may be exacerbated by a warmer, drier and more variable climate is also likely.
Other potential impacts for vegetation communities include:
Primary production could increase where rain is not limiting, due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
Earlier flowering of a range of flora
Change in vegetation community structure through changed fire regimes, including more intense and frequent fires and drying of terrestrial vegetation
Increased mortality during drought of heat-sensitive species
Breeding failures due to loss/mis-match of pollinators and seasonality of rainfall
Seeding and germination failure due to too high temperatures or lack of soil moisture
Potential negative impacts of wildfires on long-lived species and irreversible changes to vegetation communities(NCCARF Terrestrial Biodiversity Network, 2013).