Changes in climate
The Earth’s climate is undergoing changes in response to natural variability, as well as human induced changes arising from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere. Associated with these changes are impacts on the Earth’s water cycle which has direct implications for wetlands.
While there is uncertainty regarding the precise impacts of climate change, there is general agreement amongst climate scientists that climate change will result in increased temperatures, altered rainfall patterns, increased risk of flash flooding, increased drought frequency and severity, increased cyclone intensity, rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion.
There are many different wetland types but one thing they have in common is their dependence on the water cycle, though this varies in terms of specific water quantity, quality and temperature needs.
Any changes to the water cycle through altered rainfall patterns (distribution, time of the year, quantity), extreme weather events and rising temperatures will affect the water cycle and therefore the hydrology of individual wetlands. This in turn will affect the wetland’s structure and functionality. Climate impacts are likely to exacerbate changes in the water cycle.
Examples of how climate impacts are already affecting or will likely affect wetlands include:
There are still many uncertainties regarding specific impacts on individual wetlands due to the sheer complexity of the climate system. However, the overall science around climate change and its likely impacts continues to grow. This increasing body of scientific information will help improve our understanding of how changes in the climate will impact Queensland’s wetlands and water systems.
Wetlands play an valuable role in supporting community efforts to adapt to a changing climate and respond to its impacts. There is increasing recognition of the role that wetlands play in supporting biodiversity, storing carbon and regulating greenhouse gas emission sources, being a refuge for wildlife during drought periods, and buffering our coastlines during extreme weather events.
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Last updated: 29 June 2017
This page should be cited as:
Changes in climate, WetlandInfo 2015, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland, viewed 30 October 2017, .