The Ecological Futures Theme consists of five biophysically based projects that will make use of a wide range of existing environmental datasets to develop conceptual models of biodiversity status and trend in each region. Existing datasets will be sourced from a number of institutions including the Atlas of Living Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, state agency partners (NSW, ACT, VIC and ACT) and other agencies like the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. The research team will also use their own long-term primary datasets.
While initially researching in parallel, the individual projects' analyses will be integrated to identify key drivers of biodiversity conservation including land use change, climate change, and demographic change and likely biodiversity response variables using a range of socially desired and legislated conservation outcomes as the end points.
The Biological Futures Theme will test some of the key biophysical assumptions that currently underpin large-scale conservation efforts by designing natural experiments. The first stage involves selecting communities and key species that could serve as bio-indicators of larger-scale biodiversity values based on their local significance, ecological function, amenability to study, availability of data, relevance to existing large scale private and public conservation projects across multiple tenures and their value as model organisms or communities in other regions and landscapes.
Regional scale climate projections are being generated by the Climate Futures Project at a scale of about 5 km2 and the modelling outputs along with the results of the natural experiments will then be used to test the assumptions in the ecological models. These models will then be used to produce plausible trajectories for these species, communities and threatening processes under different environmental conditions in response to different management interventions and policies.
Research being carried out at the same time in the Social and Economic Futures Theme is collecting historic data on the effectiveness of different policy instruments, planning schemes and management interventions in this region along with their social and economic impacts to validate the social and economic assumptions in the regional models.