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Impact of sea level rise on coastal natural values in Tasmania
The impacts of projected sea-level rise on beach-nesting shorebirds, native coastal vegetation and coastal plant species were assessed across all land tenure in Tasmania in a pilot study that used GIS-based rules and risk assessment methods
Inundation by rising sea levels and increased storm surge is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the habitats and associated biodiversity along Australia’s coastline. The impacts of projected sea level rise on beach-nesting shorebirds, native coastal vegetation and coastal plant species were assessed across all land tenure in Tasmania in a pilot study using GIS-based rules and risk assessment methods. From this, 118 coastal areas were identified and mapped as the highest priorities for conservation management.
Broad options for the conservation of beach-nesting shorebirds, coastal native vegetation and plant species in priority locations were developed as practical adaptation responses. Three response types were identified: refugia sites, retreat pathway sites (threat avoidance areas) and squeezed-out sites (with a high sea level rise threat). For refugia, it is recommended that land managers minimise activities that may cause disturbance or present threats to natural values. For retreat pathways, facilitating protection of retreat pathways is important through minimising new developments or infrastructure, and by minimising disturbance and physical threats. For areas that are to be inundated or squeezed out, it may be important to consider alternative management options including translocation and monitoring of the location to assess impacts.
A relatively short list of high risk values (beach-nesting shorebirds and coastal-obligate plant species locations) was identified, with a small proportion of the Tasmanian coast zoned into three management response categories, allowing for efficient and effective allocation of management effort and resources for dealing with these sites. This is the first time such an approach has been undertaken in Australia and the results clearly demonstrate that it is possible to effectively prioritise sites for biodiversity conservation management to mitigate the expected impacts of sea level rise on coastal natural heritage.