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Hope for new biodiversity habitats

Cite Magazine

Researchers have found a way to predict future habitat locations in a changing climate, identifying potential safe havens for threatened biodiversity.

Granite outcrops in south-western Australia

Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson and Dr Gunnar Keppel from the Curtin Institute for Biodiversity and Climate, along with lead researcher and former Curtin scientist Dr Tom Schut, have developed a novel approach to identify potential refugia in declining rainfall environments.

The team used airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) instruments in conjunction with traditional plot-based data and found a strong relationship between vegetation types, soil depth and rainfall in south-western Australia – a biodiversity hotspot.

“Water-gaining areas below granite outcrops were identified as important likely refugia, in particular for dense and tall vegetation types,” Wardell-Johnson says.

The research predicts very large shifts in vegetation structure, especially in high rainfall zones. Wardell-Johnson says the ability to apply expected future changes in rainfall to large areas of vegetation could reveal potential refugial sites, essential for conservation efforts.