Is Climate Change to Blame for the Rise in Shark Attacks?

by Alex McKenna

After the release of Jaws in 1975, people started thinking twice before getting in the water. Decades later, they still remember the stories, newspaper articles, and photographs of swimmers collapsed on the shore, covered in shark bites. But do they have reason to be concerned? Recent trends in climate change suggest that they actually do. Over the past 30 years, the frequency of unprovoked shark attacks has drastically increased, with the majority of bites being recorded in Florida, South Africa, Australia, and the Bahamas. While researchers argue that there are many reasons behind this influx, Dr. Blake Chapman, professor at Bond University in Australia, points to climate change as one of the principle explanations. He believes that rising temperatures, heavy rains, and anomalous weather patterns, all results of climate change, fundamentally alter marine ecosystems and are ultimately to blame for the recent spike in shark attacks. Continue reading

Is a Carbon Tax the Right Fit for Australia?


by Blaine Williams

Australia has relatively low overall levels of greenhouse gas emissions. However, due in part to its small population and large amounts of readily-available cheap energy, the country has the highest emissions per capita in the world. In a controversial move to combat these high levels of carbon emissions, the Australian government announced that it would be introducing a carbon emissions tax. Proponents of the tax cite lower emissions as a selling point, but those against the policy claim that economic contractions, spikes in unemployment, and higher fuel prices would make the policy less than worthwhile. Economists Xianming Meng, Mahinda Siriwardana, and Judith McNeill of the University of New England in Australia decided to measure what outcomes should be expected from said carbon tax, using a model other than those that had been presented by the government to support the policy. Continue reading

Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union

by Jake Kessler

The United States is divided over the existence of climate change. The conservative right-wing party in the U.S., the Republican party, is widely known for its anti-climate change beliefs. The Democratic Party, our left-wing liberal party, strongly believes in climate change and the need to tackle it. Does this type of relationship between political ideology and opinion on climate change exist elsewhere? Aaron et al (2016) looked at similar populations in Canada, Australia, and the European Union, and found similar divides in those countries between the left, and right wing- coalitions. They argue that the issue has been become politicized in much of the developed world. However, the United States remains an outlier due to the intensity of the divide. The authors attributed this to the greater degree of politicization in general versus other developed countries. Continue reading

Large Forest Blocks are Essential for Biodiversity Protection and Carbon Storage

by Stephen Johnson

Habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of most tropical biodiversity. Typically, this habitat loss is driven by deforestation for agricultural use. However, deforested landscapes are rarely homogenous fields with low diversity; most often, forest fragments are left embedded in a matrix of varying types of agriculture, from open field monocultures, to pastures and forest-mimicking shaded plantations. The process of fragmentation has a significant negative effect on the biodiversity present in the area; however, fragments are often able to support a variety of species, as are some types of agriculture, such as agroforestry. Less is known about the capacity of such landscapes to sequester and store carbon. What little has been done has focused on carbon in agroforestry systems, with promising, though mixed, results. Continue reading

Analyzing the Vulnerability of Rainforest Birds to Deforestation

by Maithili Joshi

In South East Queensland, Australia Pavlacky et al.(2014) conducted a study on the vulnerability of birds, rainforest ecosystems, and the biological impacts in response to deforestation in local and regional areas. The central idea is the to investigate the life history and forest structure to rank the vulnerability of avian species, while also looking at species loss along different kinds of forest structure and landscape change. The objectives are evaluating the effects of life history traits on the patch occupancy and vulnerability of rainforest birds, determining the relative effects of stand, landscape, and patch structure on species richness, and evaluating the relative contributions of deforestation and fragmentation to species richness. Continue reading

Crying Over Spilled Milk: Australia’s Diminishing Dairy Production

by Phoebe Shum

Due to climate variability, Australian dairy production may face challenges in the coming years. Authors Kevin Hanslow, Don Gunasekera, Brendan Cullen and David Newth (2012) outline the economic effects of climate change on pasture-based dairy production in Australia. Climate change undoubtedly affects agriculture in general, but pasture-based dairy production, which is heavily reliant on climate, experiences difficulty in efficiently converting pasture to milk when the temperature is not right. The drastic climatic changes will force farmers to alter their grazing systems. Hanslow et al. focus on the south-eastern regions of Australia, i.e. Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, which produce 80% of Australia’s milk. Since climate change will reduce the supply and reliability of water supplies, dairy herds that rely on rain-fed pasture will not be able to survive as easily. Their results prove that the regions with drastic changes in climate will experience the greatest loss of dairy output. Additionally, shifts in temperature can also cause stress-related illnesses such as heat stress in cattle, resulting in reduced cattle productivity. Stress-related pests such as cattle ticks can also occur. Surprisingly, Tasmanian dairy production experienced a relatively low amount of decline in dairy productivity when compared to other states for reasons unstated. Continue reading

Addressing Climate Change in Australian Marine Ecosystems

by Weronika Konwent

Australia’s diverse marine environment is under threat from varied effects of climate change such as marine heat waves, ocean acidification, floods, and tropical cyclones. Various organisms spanning many habitats are affected, including fish, seabirds, marine turtles, coral, and marine invertebrates, many of which are keystone species that influence the structure of a particular community. It is important to study and understand the impact of ecological changes on the habitat and its inhabitants in order to preserve them as effectively as possible. Continue reading

Can Corals Acclimate to Large Temperature Changes?

by Dawn Barlow

Over just the past few decades ocean temperature has contributed to significant losses in global coral cover, and the extent to which corals can undergo physiological acclimatization or genetic adaptation to thermal changes remains uncertain. However, this information will be crucial for the effectiveness of conservation strategies and accuracy of projections of reef futures. This study conducted by Howells et al. (2013) investigates the potential for corals to acclimatize to temperatures that exceed historical thermal regimes. This is done by investigating several parameters—bleaching, mortality, Symbiodinium type fidelity, and reproductive timing—in coral colonies that have been transplanted between warm central regions and cool southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef for a period of 14 months. Continue reading