Environmental Responses to Climate Change

BMT WBM's unique mix of skills and expertise allows us to have a superior understanding of climate change impacts on both natural and built environments.

Future climate change-induced impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, increased temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns have the potential for serious impacts on the natural environment including our coastal and inland wetland environments.  However, the timing, extent and severity of impacts will depend on a range of local factors including geography, topography, levels of existing anthropogenic disturbance, and the resilience of these natural systems to climate change.

BMT WBM’s unique blend of expertise across a wide range of environmental fields allows us to understand the potential consequences of climate change on the natural environment, and to work with management agencies to understand, plan and deliver management actions that are both innovative and practical. 

Recent Relevant Projects

National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment – Kakadu’s South Alligator River (NT)

BMT WBM was selected by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change (DCC) to undertake one of six national climate change coastal vulnerability assessments.

Commencing in August 2008, the case study for Kakadu National Park identified critical climate change impacts on these low-lying coastal wetlands of national and world heritage significance.

The study involved application of state-of-the-art hydrodynamic modelling and catchment modelling of the South Alligator River system to test the scale of impacts associated with the risk of flood discharge, salt water inundation, tidal surges and extreme climate events such as cyclones.

Based on the results of the modelling, a desktop assessment of potential impacts and risks of predicted climate change scenarios on wetland ecosystems was then conducted in order to determine risks to ecological, cultural and socio-economic values of the South Alligator River system. This included evaluation of potential impacts on tourism opportunities, indigenous communities both inside and adjacent to the park, infrastructure, changed landscapes and critical habitat. Adaptation options were identified and assessed with stakeholders and traditional owners.

Wetland Ecological Character Descriptions (National)

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands of international importance, commonly referred to as Ramsar wetlands.  Over the period 2007 -2011, BMT WBM worked closely with Federal, State and Territory Governments to prepare ecological character descriptions (ECDs) for seven of Australia’s Ramsar wetlands.   These studies covered a vastly diverse range of systems and sites, including: coastal wetlands adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef (Shoalwater and Corio Bays); Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory;  Currawinya Lakes in the arid zone of Western Queensland; and Corner Inlet in Victoria, a temperate coastal embayment that connects to the Southern Ocean. 

The ECD documents provide a literature review and update for each site as well as a basis for assessing any changes to ecological character since the original listing date.  Limits of acceptable change within the document provide indicators for defining the ecological character of wetlands over time. 

A key threat common to all of the sites that were studied was climate change.  Coastal systems are vulnerable to effects from ocean acidification, sea level rise and saltwater intrusion and increased flooding and sedimentation.  Inland and freshwater systems will be most affected by changes in rainfall patterns, increased period of drought and associated increased rates of evaporation and bushfire risk.   Each ECD includes a discussion about how climate change could affect its ecological character which can be considered in future management planning.