Climate change risk assessment for terrestrial species and ecosystems in the Auckland region

Craig Bishop, Todd J Landers
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) and Chief Sustainability Office
Publication date:

Executive summary (extracts)

Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has the potential to radically alter ecosystems throughout the world, including the Auckland region. In particular, climate change poses significant challenges for ecosystem conservation and is predicted to become a major threat to biodiversity in the 21st century. Climate change risk assessments looking at species at risk have become very common overseas, however in New Zealand and particularly in Auckland, assessments of species and ecosystems have been limited. This lack of spatially explicit models of risk to ecosystems and species makes it difficult for science to inform conservation planning and land management.

This report represents a first attempt at a risk and vulnerabilities assessment for Auckland’s terrestrial ecosystems and species. In it we assess some of the possible effects of climate change on Auckland’s terrestrial ecosystems, indigenous species, and invasive pest species. As part of this assessment we attempt to identify which species and ecosystems are most at risk of negative impacts from climate change.

Uncertainty is the key message with respect to climate change effects on Auckland’s terrestrial species and ecosystems. Overseas research shows that climate impacts are highly variable, depending on the taxonomic group, spatial scales and time periods considered. However, the majority of these studies do indicate alarming consequences for biodiversity. The interaction between native and exotic biodiversity in their response(s) to climate change is particularly important and these inter-species relationships are very complex and varied in time and space. ...

There is a complete absence of quantitative research on key climatic tipping points for Auckland’s ecosystems. This type of data is of critical importance in order to understand the risks of different climate change effects and to inform adaptive management approaches to dealing with the negative impacts of climate change in the future. Therefore, commitment to the collection of long-term ecological datasets is an absolute imperative in order to improve our understanding of how Auckland’s ecosystems will respond to the impact of climate change. However, it will probably be decades before this data is able to provide definitive answers to the many important questions about the impact(s) of climate change on Auckland’s terrestrial ecosystems and species, and how to best manage them.

The potential serious impact of climate change on Auckland’s indigenous terrestrial ecosystems, the lack of information about the best response to these impacts, and the time-lag associated with collecting ecosystem data means that action(s) to manage climate change threats will need to be taken before complete information is available. A common approach to this problem is to embed research, and its evaluation, as an interactive part of ecosystem management from its initiation in a process called adaptive management or ‘learning by doing’. Taking a ‘wait and see’ approach in the absence of robust data is not an acceptable outcome.

Auckland Council technical report TR2019/014

Climate Change Risk Assessment CCRA 2019 series


Climate Change Risk Assessment 2019

As communities across the world set out to plan for climate change mitigation and adaptation, they first seek to understand how climate change will affect their city, region, or country.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) has been produced by Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) in support of the Auckland Climate Action Plan (ACAP) at the request of the Chief Sustainability Office. Its aim is to provide information about the risk and vulnerabilities the Auckland region may face under a changing climate regime, which is already underway. In 2018, national climate change projections were scaled-down to produce a more specific picture of their likely effects within the Auckland region. Based on this, CCRA adopted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 (“business as usual”) scenario as its guiding projection, given the lack of evidence of any meaningful and sustained decreases in emissions that would shift to other projection pathways.

The eight reports in the CCRA consider various components of key risks – that is, hazard, exposure, and vulnerability – across sectors and systems of interest: people (heat vulnerability, climate change and air quality), society (social vulnerability and flooding), and natural environment (terrestrial and marine ecosystems), as well sea level rise at regional and local scales. A summary report has also been produced.

Titles in the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) series:

An assessment of vulnerability to climate change in Auckland. Fernandez, M. A. and N. E. Golubiewski

Development of the Auckland Heat Vulnerability Index. Joynt, J. L. R. and N. E. Golubiewski

Air quality and societal impacts from predicted climate change in Auckland. Talbot, N.

Climate change risk assessment for terrestrial species and ecosystems in the Auckland region. Bishop, C. D. and T. J. Landers 

Climate change risk assessment for Auckland’s marine and freshwater ecosystems. Foley, M. M. and M. Carbines

Flooding risk in a changing climate. Golubiewski, N. E., J. L. R. Joynt and K. Balderston

Auckland’s exposure to sea level rise: part 1 – regional inventory. Golubiewski, N. E., K. Balderston, C. Hu and J. Boyle

Auckland’s exposure to sea level rise: part 2 – local inventory (forthcoming). Boyle, J., N. E. Golubiewski, K. Balderston and C. Hu

Summary: Climate change risks in Auckland. Auckland Council. Prepared by Arup for Auckland Council 


Last updated: 2019-03-20


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