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The challenge

A climate change vulnerability and adaptation project

Wetlands are vulnerable to climate change, with shifts in rainfall, temperature, sea levels and extreme weather events impacting ecological outcomes. There is uncertainty associated with potential climate futures and environmental responses.

Ramsar Wetlands are internationally recognized ecosystems vital for biodiversity, water purification, flood control, and global environmental health. They support high biodiversity, including many rare and endangered species, and provide critical ecosystem services.

The impacts of climate change at Ramsar listed wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin are likely to be exacerbated by existing modifications to hydrology and function of the sites and in the system. This makes anticipating the impact of climate change on these wetlands complex.

The Australian Government has invested $4.1 million to improve our understanding of how climate change is likely to affect Ramsar sites in the Murray–Darling Basin. Delivered via a partnership between Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and CSIRO, the project will develop methods for assessing vulnerability to climate change, adaptation pathways to navigate uncertain futures and a prioritisation framework to assist decision makers.


Black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) community with wildflowers (Carpobrotus glaucescens) growing after recent rains at Riverland, South Australia (one of Ramsar project study sites). ©  CSIRO, Sophie Gilbey

Our response

Response to climate change: enhancing resilience at Ramsar sites

A site specific, values and evidence driven approach will be developed and implemented to deliver the project. This approach will integrate local knowledge and contemporary science to better understand the function of sites now and into the future. Each site will also be considered in the context of the larger system of waterways and wetlands.

The Barmah-Millewa Forest. Australia’s largest red gum forest pictured in flood. Image by Gavin Rees.

The project will focus on 3 study sites: Riverland, Barmah Forest and Macquarie Marshes Ramsar sites.

The key objectives of the project are to:

  1. Assess the ecological vulnerability of study sites to climate change
  2. Deliver a climate change adaptation roadmap for each wetland
  3. Develop a decision-making framework for prioritising management actions for improving resilience and facilitating adaptation.

Stakeholder engagement is a key component of this project. The project will engage with stakeholders via three facilitated workshops at each site to gather and refine local knowledge and data. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to engage in the project at different levels to suit their capacity. 

The workshops will:

  • build stakeholder awareness of climate change vulnerability at each site
  • build stakeholder capacity to address climate risks and climate adaptation issues
  • facilitate the merging of different data sources
  • build consensus on climate impacts.

The results

Expected outcomes of the Ramsar vulnerability project for Murray-Darling Basin Ramsar sites

The project aims to culminate in a new understanding of climate vulnerability and actionable adaptation strategies for three Murray-Darling Basin Ramsar sites.

This will be achieved through conducting thorough vulnerability assessments, engaging stakeholders through a series of workshops, and finalizing adaptation pathways.

The envisioned impact includes enhanced ecosystem resilience, informed management practices, and the establishment of a community of practice for climate adaptation across the Basin.

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