The Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) announced a project by Macquarie University researchers as one the successful applicants to share in $4.2 million of funding. Awarded in the category of Terrestrial Biodiversity, the project will determine future invasive plant threats under climate change.
Led by Professor Lesley Hughes and Associate Professor Michelle Leishman, the project is in collaboration with Dr Paul Downey at the University of Canberra and representatives from the Department of Primary Industry in Victoria, the NSW Department of Industry and Investment, and the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.
Professor Hughes and her team will receive $274,150 to provide the first comprehensive, national assessment of the risks of weeds emerging from naturalised plants.
“In Australia, invasive plants cost the economy at least $4 billion annually, not including the cost to terrestrial biodiversity. As many invasive species may be advantaged by climate change, this figure will increase significantly. With around 15 species added to this list each year, these species represent a ticking time bomb of future weed problems”, said professor Hughes.
Of the 29,000 introduced plant species in Australia, approximately 400 have become significant weeds and a further 2700 have become ‘naturalised’, establishing self-sustaining populations in the wild. The results of this project could help to identify plant species under threat and make a significant impact on this problem.
One of the founding members of Climate Scientists Australia, Professor Hughes has been a member of the Expert Advisory Group on biodiversity and climate change for the federal Department of Climate Change and has also acted as an advisor and consultant on climate change-related issues for many organisations including WWF Australia, Earthwatch and the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority.