Assessment of the Climate Change Risk to the Living Plant Collections

In August 2017, the 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 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.

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 Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s 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 the pdf copy of the Climate Risk Assessment for RBGV Living collection report here