Climate Change Risk

Assessment of Climate Change Risk to Living Plant Collections 

In August 2017, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria commissioned The University of Melbourne’s Dr. Dave Kendal and Alison Farrar to carry out a detailed assessment of the risk from climate change for the living collections and landscape of Melbourne Gardens.  

The team consulted large global datasets and urban plant inventories to compare the temperature of locations where each species naturally occur and where they are cultivated, with several temperature projections for Melbourne’s climate future.  6,103 taxa were assessed, including 1,110 tree taxa.  Temperature ‘envelopes’ were then derived for each species and compared with these projected climates under current temperatures, and moderate and extreme climate change scenarios for Melbourne.

Under the extreme climate future, where temperatures are forecast to increase by 3.0 °C by 2070 (assuming current ‘business as usual’ emissions), 20% of tree taxa and 26% of other taxa are considered to be at high risk.

Risk to trees within the Melbourne Gardens under the extreme climate scenario. Red circles indicate the species of highest risk from rising temperatures.

This assessment has provided an indication of the climate vulnerability risk of the living collections and identifies priority areas that require management intervention such as procuring new species, succession replanting or improving site conditions.

One other outcome of this project was the development of a decision support Plant Assessment Tool to enable botanic horticulturists and managers to run their own assessments of climate risk for new plant introductions. The tool uses a program script to compare species in a simple list with global datasets and can produce an assessment summary in a matter of minutes that previously could have taken many hours.

Download a copy of the Report Here