ZPEM 1201 Geography 1A: Introduction to Global Change 2013.
OUTLINE THE LIKELY IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON AUSTRALIA’S ALPINE REGION.
By: Brent Solomon
“The nations of the world have agreed that climate change is the most serious threat facing humankind” (Douthwaite 2006, p. 53). Some natural ecosystems are more vulnerable to changes in climate than others (Hughes 2011). An example of one such threatened environment can be found in the Australian alpine region (Grabherr, 1994). The region has already experienced dramatic changes in its environment since the effects of climate change have been observed (Green, 2010). The purpose of this essay is to provide a broad but thorough outline on the topic of climate change, and its effect on the Australian Alpine region. Some of the main features of this issue will be identified in the heading below.
Fig. 1. Location of the Alps in south-eastern Australia. Almost all of the Australian Alps is within National Parks (shaded area). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1433831905000235
What is the Australian Alpine Region and what is its Significance? The Australian Alpine Region (AAR) is a mountainous region stretching from the Brindabella Ranges, in the Australian Capital Territory, Southward to the Victorian Alps, 50km out of Melbourne, (Costin 1989, p.8). Covering around 25,000 square kilometres, the AAR equates to about 0.3% of Australian landmass (Costin 1989, p.8).
Historically (for the last 21,000 years), the AAR has been managed by the Indigenous people of Australia (Flood 1980). The Aboriginal community used the area to engage in annual economic and conduct ceremonial activities (Good 1992, p131).
As well as the cultural importance, the AAR also has economic and ecosystem values. (Worboys et al., 2010). Not only has the prestige of the Alps been credited in Australia’s National Heritage List, as a National Landscape (Department of the Environment Water, and the Arts). But the wetlands and biodiversity contained within the national parks have been recognised in reserves and listing, both locally and internationally (Kirkpatrick, 1994; Independent Scientific Committee, 2004).
The AAR consists of 11 recognised National Parks (Crabb, 2003). Consisting of, over 1,000 species of plants, with nearly 400 of these within the alpine and subalpine areas (Department of Environment and Conservation, New South Wales, 2006). In Kosciuszko National Park alone 293 vertebrate species have been recorded, with over 20% of these considered to be either: rare, vulnerable, or threatened! (Mansergh et al, 2004).
The other critical stakeholder group in the AAR is the tourism industry backed by the 10 operating ski resorts in the area (National Institute of Economic and Industry Research [NEIR], 2006). The exclusive snow cover in the Alps lasts for about 60-70 days (Galloway, 1988). The ski resorts in the area provide and estimated worth of around AU$900 million to the tourism sector (NIEIR 2006).
What is the issue of Climate Change?
For thousands of years the levels of Carbon in the atmosphere remained stable at 275 parts per million (ppm). However since the Industrial revolution in the 19th Century the atmospheric levels carbon dioxide has been steadily increasing at a rate of two ppm per year (McKibben 2010, p. 46). Today these concentrations are at 397 ppm and rising (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2013). Fossil fuel combustion is currently emitting 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually (Douthwaite, 2006, p. 54). The effects on the atmosphere of these of carbon emissions are seen in global warming and climate change (NOAA, 2013). At present global warming has caused the planets overall temperature to rise by nearly one degree Celsius (McKibben 2010, p. 45). Predictions for that figure are set to rise by a further seven degrees Fahrenheit in...