Current climate change research projects: adaptation


Education for farmers

NSW DPI has established the climate risk management team to assist farmers to improve their short term decision-making in response to seasonal climate variability (El Nino, Southern Oscillation Index). The team also undertakes a broader extension and education role for farmers, on climate change and climate variability.

Seasonal risk management

Land & Water Australia’s Managing Climate Variability program funds two projects in NSW DPI aimed at improving seasonal risk management for rangeland graziers, western CMAs and sub-tropical dairies.

  • The Climate science for better NRM in western NSW project terminated in May 2007. This project involved collaboration with NSW Department of Natural Resources and Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines and Water. It developed refinements to the AussieGRASS spatial growth model for vegetation types in western NSW that will allow more reliable monitoring and forecasting of ground cover at regional scales. This will allow Department of Environment and Climate Change, if requested, to provide a service for CMAs in the Western Division that will monitor a key catchment target and support warnings of possible land degradation events. The project also demonstrated the potential of the PaddockGRASP spatial framework to provide forecasts of forage production and ground cover at paddock scales to support individual property management decisions.
  • The project Seasonal climate forecasts for dairy feedbase management will terminate in December 2007. This project has identified significant trends since 1957 in a number of key climatic variables related to dairy production. The number of heat stress days has increased from less than 20 to over 30 per annum and the start of the summer growth period has moved from mid-November to mid-October, with significant consequences for winter pasture production and feed base management. The project used a combination of simulation modelling and statistical analysis to develop monthly rainfall and pasture growth probabilities for three seasonal forecasting systems, providing a tool to assist dairy producers assess seasonal risk in feed base management.

Adaptation risk assessment framework

NSW DPI has been awarded funding to conduct a project to build a Geographical Information System (GIS)-based framework for assessing the risk of climate change for agricultural production systems. This framework will provide a tool to assess the impact, vulnerability and potential adaptation options of the range of agricultural systems in NSW

Climatology in agriculture – Climate Risk Management project

This project is Action 2.4 of the NSW Greenhouse Plan, the objective of which is to “strengthen the climatology in agriculture program and develop tools and guidelines for use by farmers and Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs)”. The project is primarily concerned with raising awareness of climate change and its implications for agriculture, and supporting the development of adaptation strategies for key industries at the regional to local scale. Collaboration is key, with technical and scientific input from a wide range of relevant sources both within DPI and external to it, with partners including CMAs and other state and federal agencies.

A key area of work is the development of a range of climatic indices, to determine potential future impacts on primary production across NSW. Whilst this work only considers the biophysical factors initially, it provides critical information for evaluating potential economic impacts. Within A&F (EID), some preliminary work has been done on grazing systems (sheep and wool), including impacts on gross margins under certain scenarios. With new regional projections due later this year (expressed as probabilities), greater confidence in scenario planning, climate impact and risk assessment (including economic) and adaptation response is anticipated.

Completion: 30 June 2009



Regional climate modelling

NSW DPI is working with the Bureau of Meteorology to undertake research to downscale global climate models to get a better picture of the impact of climate change on specific NSW primary industries and regions.

New plant varieties

NSW DPI is continuing to breed and evaluate new plant varieties, for agriculture and forestry, to cope with changed climatic conditions (eg. drier conditions, shorter seasons and increased rainfall intensity).

Better decision-making

NSW DPI is developing a range of paper based and computer packages to assist primary producers make better decisions in the face of climate variability.



Impacts of climate change on plant growth: Hawkesbury Forest Project

The Hawkesbury Forest Project has been established at the Richmond campus of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) to investigate how increased atmospheric CO2 concentration will affect Australian forests. The experiment brings together an expert team of researchers from the University of Western Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with $1.2 million funding from the Australian Greenhouse Office.

The project is a carefully integrated program of experimental and modeling approaches. The centre-piece is a field facility with twelve CO2 and temperature-controlled whole-tree chambers (WTCs), valued at over $2 million, which have been provided by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The WTCs can house entire trees up to 10m tall and have for the last eight years been used in a boreal Norway spruce forest in northern Sweden.

The broad focus is on developing a predictive understanding of the growth, carbon storage potential and water use of both managed and unmanaged eucalypt forests growing in typical Australian, water-limited conditions, and their responses to the rising CO2 that will occur during the next 50 years. Potential increases in water-use efficiency at high CO2 are of huge potential importance to Australia, the driest inhabited continent. Consequently, the experiment will include contrasting watering treatments, which will allow researchers to test for the first time the effect of elevated CO2 on productivity of large woody plants under water-limitation.

Long-term predictions of forest responses to climate change cannot be accomplished directly in experiments, and must rely on ecosystem models that incorporate our best understanding of plant eco-physiological responses. The Hawkesbury CO2 enrichment experiment will guide the development of ecosystem models by testing specific, well-defined hypotheses about the response of water-limited forests to elevated CO2.

Status: Chambers erected, trees planted, measurements recently commenced.

Completion: Currently funded until June 2008, further funding is required to continue measurements. The facility could continue to provide valuable information for at least 10 years.

Sequestration: a bridge to a low carbon emission future

In addition to the mitigation benefits of schemes such as the NSW Greenhouse Gas Abatement Schemes (GGAS), sequestration by new forests has an important role as a bridge to a low carbon emission world. New forests can 'buy time' for the economy to adapt to low emission technology. Technology adaptation will take many decades while a new forest is an economic solution that is available now.



South-East Australian Climate Initiative - water resource management

NSW DPI has informal links with the South-East Australian Climate Initiative (SEACI), a joint project between CSIRO, Bureau of Meterology, Vic DSE and Australian Greenhouse Office, co-ordinated by MDBC, which aims to produce better methods and projections to plan water resource management into the future. The SEACI project will be run using a similar model to the Indian Ocean Climate Initiative (IOCI 2002). Significant questions cover amount of rainfall (inter year variability, decadal trends and climate change), reliability of rainfall and environmental responses to changing climatic factors. Only a small part of NSW is included in the study area (south of the Lachlan), though all of Victoria and South Australia are included.

On-farm toolkits and methods for evaporation mitigation

NSW DPI research and extension staff are involved in the work of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Irrigation Futures, ranging from development of on-farm toolkits and methods for evaporation mitigation through to understanding irrigation in the catchment context (System Harmonisation). Though this research is not directly focused on climate change the outputs will be important for assisting the irrigation industry adapt to the changing conditions.


Find out more about NSW DPI's reasearch into water



Marine and freshwater ecosystems

NSW DPI is collaborating with CSIRO to undertake research into sustainable development of marine and freshwater ecosystems, to ensure that they are ecologically healthy as well as economically productive under the predicted impacts of climate change.

Sustainable management of marine uses and industries in NSW

A 5-year project in collaboration with CSIRO, which commenced in 2005, is undertaking strategic research that will provide the tools and ideas to assist planners, decision-makers and the community to understand how we can sustainably develop our regional coastal and marine ecosystems so that they are ecologically healthy as well as economically productive. This challenge will require an integration of likely climate change scenarios, oceanic and estuarine processes, the complex biology and ecology of natural and man-made systems, economic and social development, and systems of human governance.

The time-span for the modelling work in this project is 1950 to 2030, which captures the historical period of rapid development and environmental change, as well as a manageable projection period of immediate interest to policy matters and aligned with the Australian Greenhouse Office’s 2030 predictions of changing rainfall, temperature, sea level rise and oceanic acidity.

Atlantis: impacts on fisheries of different environment scenarios

The CSIRO's Atlantis modelling framework is being used to evaluate different management strategies designed to address the likely impacts on fisheries resources of different environmental scenarios for an initial study in the Clarence River estuary and for a separate model of the nearshore coastal zone from the Queensland border to the Victorian border. The Atlantis modelling framework is a dynamic, time stepped, biogeochemical model with a coupled physical transport module. Atlantis tracks the nutrient flow through physical, O2, CO2, living (multiple) and detrital functional groups in a box model. However due to the computational limitations in Atlantis the nearshore model is based on a large spatial scale of the individual boxes. Preliminary outputs from the estuarine model are expected in 2007. The modelling will then be extended to elsewhere along the NSW coast.


NSW DPI Corporate initiatives

DPI is undertaking an assessment of its own contributions to Greenhouse gases with a view to develop and implement policy and practice across a range of operational areas to reduce these in the future.

DPI has undertaken an organisational climate change 'risk assesment' to identify those operational areas that are at high risk due to climate change. This assessment will guide organisational adaptation to climate change and may identify mechanisms for improving the resilience of primary industries to climate change, delivered through appropriate extension mechanisms.