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Wolfe B, Kjeldsen S, Strugnell J, Watson SA, and Pecl G (2022). National assessment of climate-driven species redistribution using citizen science data. Report to the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns, Queensland.
This project developed state-based (WA, NSW and Tas) and national report cards assessing Australian marine species to determine species that have potentially undergone recent changes in distribution, extending their southern range limit into new areas as our oceans warm. These report cards draw upon several national citizen science databases and use a robust decision tree analysis to outline which species are shifting, and with what degree of certainty. Project objectives were to 1. draw upon the existing knowledge of marine citizen scientists to identify climate‐driven changes within the Australian marine estate; and 2. develop products to communicate to and engage with the public on issues of climate change and biodiversity using their own citizen science information. The report cards can also be used to drive public interest in the National Environmental Science Program Marine and Coastal Hub and in the status of biodiversity in Australia.
Where whole communities or ecosystems have been explored, estimates suggest that on average 50% of species globally are already responding to climate change by shifting geographic distribution. These changes in species distributions (or ranges) affect ecosystem structure and function, impact both fisheries and conservation, and often require specific management as species leave existing locations or enter new areas. A recently published systematic review of all published scientific literature on range shifts within Australian waters revealed at least 198 species shifting, but also substantial geographical and taxonomic gaps (Gervais et al 2021). This study also showed that 1/5th of the published studies incorporated citizen science information, demonstrating the huge contribution citizen science can make. However, many of the citizen science databases had not been systematically searched and analysed to formally assess species changes in distribution.