Climate Research Accelerator (CRX) projects

In August 2021, Melbourne Climate Futures awarded its first round of ‘sapling’ funding through its Climate Research Accelerator (CRX) program to eight diverse projects that bring together interdisciplinary teams from across the University with a range of external partners.  In November 2022, we awarded a second round of both 'seed' and 'sapling' funding to a further eight projects.

The CRX funding is designed to support established projects that can demonstrate high likelihood of making an immediate impact on the climate problem.

2024 Applications now open

This third round of CRX will fund up to 4 projects that already have some level of establishment (this is not a seed funding round).

The call for submissions opens on Monday 29 April 2024 and closes Friday 31 May 2024. Full application details and documents are available here:

Application Form

Guidelines

Briefing Document

We hosted a half-hour information drop-in session via Zoom on Tuesday 30 April 2022 at 11:30am for researchers to attend and discuss their potential projects with MCF. If you missed the session, you can read the Q&As here.

Read more about the CRX program's impact:

2021-2022 CRX Impact Report

CRX Impact Showcase 2023

Throughout 2023, the project teams were provided with training and guidance, and the opportunity to interact across disciplines both within the University landscape and with external partners. In November 2023, they presented on their impact to date.

2022-2023 CRX Projects

  • Integrating Indigenous design with climate science to inform near, mid, and long-term scenarios for the Great Birrarung Parklands

    Project leads: Kirstine Wallis and Alex Felson

    In early 2021, the Birrarung Council – the voice of the Yarra River – invited postgraduate landscape architecture students from three universities to collaborate and develop a vision for the Great Birrarung Parkland. They asked for regeneration ideas from Naarm, the heart of Melbourne, to the upper catchments and tributaries, that build on the Wilip-gin Birrarung murron (Yarra River Protection Act of 2017) Legislation that defines the river as a living entity.

    In response, the School of Design created the Design with Country: Resilience Studio, comprising urban designers and landscape and built-form architects, to explore the large, urbanised riverine system and develop and visualise design interventions for present to future scenarios. This multi-disciplinary studio brings together Aboriginal perspective, heritage and Country living systems with contemporary urbanisation and Birrarung catchment management.

    We have established a co-educational course working with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (WWCHAC) on envisioning the Birrarung (Yarra River) as a living entity and shaping the future vision. Led by UoM staff including First Nations teachers and guests, students are immersed in local culture and science to navigate the concepts of connection to Country, building cultural awareness and engaging bi-culturally with Traditional Owners and knowledge holders, city managers, stakeholders and design professionals in order to understand the challenges and opportunities of the river precinct and surrounding areas from multiple perspectives and future scenarios.

    This project will establish a science advisory group to work with landscape architecture, urban design and architecture students, alongside the WWCHAC and Indigenous designers, to incorporate the latest climate projections (such as drought, increased weather intensity, and more frequent and intense rainfall events) and apply a better climate understanding of these challenges. Through the Design with Country initiative (studio and consultancy), we will develop data and climate visualisation strategies to inform the designs and to feed into planning for the Great Birrarung Parkland. This will involve a focus on regional watersheds, sub-basins and neighbourhoods, drainage and infrastructure systems, and biology with the goal of developing multi-scale resilience strategies.

    MCF’s CRX funding will support workshops and research support staff members to gather information on and support the development of hydrologic and climatic modeling for 2050s and 2100s scenarios along the Birrarung and its tributaries.

  • Assessing the potential of recycled glass for greener infrastructure

    Project lead: Tuan Nguyen

    Concrete is the most used human-made material in the world and is the cornerstone of infrastructure development (roads, bridges, tunnels, etc.). Nonetheless, it is widely considered a carbon-intensive product, which requires urgent decarbonisation in the fight against climate change. Cement manufacturing is the root contributor (about 90%) to the CO2 emissions associated with the concrete industry, which in turn accounts for 8% of the global CO2 emissions.

    With the increasing global population and the growing demand of infrastructure development, this will continue to have significant, negative impact on climate change if no mitigating actions are taken. In addition, excessive exploitation and further processing of natural resources used for concrete production (e.g., limestone for cement production and natural sand for fine aggregate) leads to deforestation, habitat destruction and degradation of natural systems. Therefore, as we strive for climate solutions, sustainable concrete-production technologies are needed.

    Replacing cement and natural sand in concrete is the most cost-effective solution to this challenge and can be adopted immediately. Recycled glass (RG) is an attractive option as a cement-production alternative, due to its excellent pozzolanic reactivity in powder form and as an alternative for natural sand with which it has similar physical characteristics in particle form.

    On average, each Australian produces about 70kg of waste glass annually, which results in 390,000 tonnes of waste glass in Victoria. Of that, around only 48% is recycled back into glass cullet for glass manufacturing. The remaining 52% (about 200,000 tonnes) becomes landfill, which leads to significant environmental problems. Therefore, using RG to replace cement and sand in concrete will have two-fold benefits to address the environmental impact associated with the concrete industry and increase the recycling rate of waste glass. This project aims to assess the potential of high-volume recycled glass in the production of sustainable concrete for the construction of greener infrastructure through structural and environmental investigation.

  • Reading climate

    Project Co-Leads: Larissa McLean Davies and Sarah E Truman

    Directed by the Literary Education Lab and in collaboration with the Stella Prize, Reading Climate aims to build new understandings about the connections between sustainability and Indigenous knowledges in the context of secondary-school English literature. This timely project both responds to the pressing imperative for climate education in schools and activates English literary education as an important interdisciplinary site for reimagining social and environmental futures.

    Using sociable and relational approaches to reading, the project will explore the interface between Indigenous literatures and climate justice by bringing into dialogue Indigenous authors, interdisciplinary scholars, English teachers, and students through book clubs and public events, and will generate an online toolkit of teaching and learning resources.

  • Translating changes in soil moisture to engineering flood guidance

    Project leads: Conrad Wasko, Elisabeth Vogel, Rory Nathan

    An imperative of governments worldwide is to ensure that the infrastructure our society uses to live, work or commute, continues functioning within tolerable risks of interruption or failure. Flooding represents the most common hazard worldwide, with 18 million people impacted annually, a number that is expected to increase three-fold by the middle of this century.

    Rising global temperatures are intensifying storm events leading to increased flood risk. Simultaneously, increasing evaporation leads to drier soils before the storm event that increases the amount of rainfall absorbed by the catchment, known as “rainfall losses”. Drier soils typically lead to increased rainfall losses and hence reduced flood volumes and water supply.

    Australia’s flood guidance provides recommendations on how to address increased rainfall intensities under climate change, but there is no guidance provided on how to consider drier soil moisture states and the resulting increases in rainfall losses.

    Despite global knowledge that changes in soil wetness need to be considered in assessments of flood risk, no jurisdiction in the world is assessing how these changes could be incorporated into flood risk assessments. Here, we aim to calculate the changes in rainfall losses due to climate change across Australia to directly inform practical engineering applications.

  • Developing a spatial index and dashboard of electric vehicle solar charging potential for decarbonisation

    Project leads: Patricia S. Lavieri and Kelvin Say

    By contributing to 15% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and 29% of global energy demand, the transport sector must play a significant role in decarbonising the energy system. Electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising technology that, through inter-disciplinary research, can lead this decarbonisation.

    In particular, a significant opportunity lays in the Australian residential sector, which already has over 3.1 million rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed and millions of forecasted EV purchases over the next 20 years. Collectively, an increased use of rooftop solar PV generation to charge EVs can accelerate vehicle emission reductions and contribute directly to Australia’s net-zero emission targets, while individually, it enables consumers to increase the utilisation of their own solar PV generation while reducing electricity bills.

    This project aims to develop an analytic framework and data visualisation dashboard that maps the potential for integrated use of rooftop PV systems and EVs. The project will involve a spatial analysis of the Greater Melbourne region that assesses how the driving and utilisation patterns of private passenger EVs intersect with residential rooftop solar PV generation and battery energy storage systems.

    A holistic index will be created for administrative geographic units, such as Local Government Area (LGA) or State Electoral Division (SED). The index will include indicators that cover technological, economic, social, and transport demand dimensions that reflect both the current state of EV uptake and PV and battery installations, and the potential deployment scenarios that maximise economic and decarbonisation benefits. Results will be compiled to create a dashboard that will provide planners and policy makers with an evidence-based tool to guide transport decarbonisation roadmaps.

  • Rephraming integrated design: Towards a more comprehensive software tool that integrates life cycle assessment into the design of buildings, neighbourhoods and cities

    Project lead: James Helal

    Regulation and current attempts to improve the environmental performance of the built environment have principally focused on operational energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are associated with the ongoing uses of buildings such as lighting, heating, cooling and other operational demands. However, studies have revealed that embodied energy and GHG emissions, which are related to construction and material production activities, are often underestimated in the built environment and rarely considered. It is predicted that embodied GHG emissions will represent 50% of the entire GHG emissions footprint of new construction between 2020 and 2050. Thus, design approaches for the built environment must consider and minimise embodied environmental flows to meet short-term mitigation goals for climate change.

    Developed by Dr. James Helal, Rephrame is a software tool that enables building designers to conduct an embodied carbon, energy and water assessment as a design-assisting tool, rather than as an appraisal method to evaluate, post-facto, a completed building. Through transdisciplinary collaboration across the University and with industry partners, this project seeks to enhance Rephrame to better identify cost-effective solutions that reduce the life cycle environmental effects associated with buildings. This includes integrating cost analysis and incorporating additional materials, geometries, building systems and life cycle stages.

    Ultimately, determining optimal building designs requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-scale approach that holistically assesses the life cycle environmental flows across the built environment. This is due to the complex linkages between urban scales, from a building level to a city level. Thus, this project aspires to embed the capabilities of Rephrame into new methods and technologies in computational urban planning and design. This will help empower architects, engineers, urban planners, and construction managers to collectively implement the urgent and fundamental changes needed to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing the environmental effects associated with buildings, neighbourhoods and cities.

  • Biodiversity finance: Leveraging private capital to protect nature

    Project lead: Attila Balogh

    Biodiversity continues to decline and the financing gap between what is currently being spent globally and what is needed over the next ten years is estimated to be more than $700B. However, no studies in top-tier finance journals have quantified and priced risks surrounding biodiversity loss or examined the potential role of private financing in addressing the financing gap. This is relevant because prior work in biodiversity finance has established the importance of this inquiry (Seidl and Nunes, 2019, 2021), but the absence of financial economists from this field poses a “science gap” problem that this work will address.

    Financial economists can contribute important tools and methods of analysis that matter for decision makers at firms and investment managers. This project will address this challenge by developing the first objective and data-driven assessment of two of the world’s first biodiversity finance products: Belize’s $364M“Blue Bond” and South Africa’s $150M “Rhino Bond”. The Blue Bond is intended to finance marine conservation, aiding in the long-term planning and protection of Belize’s marine ecosystems. The Rhino Bond includes performance payments from investors through the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility toward contributing to protect and increase the black rhino populations in two protected areas in South Africa.

  • The living archive of Aboriginal art: Indigenous artmaking for a better climate future

    Project lead: Fran Edmonds

    This project situates Indigenous creative practices as a process of caring for Country and climate action.   Together with Museums Victoria (MV), the Living Archive is developing a relational database with the capacity to link up information between people, places and things, alongside new and evolving stories of Country as they emerge through creative practices. From an Indigenous worldview, Country is kin, interconnected with and sustaining the wellbeing of humans, non-humans, land, water, sky, cosmologies and more (Moreton-Robinson 2015). As the recent State of Environment report notes, to keep Country healthy relies on keeping knowledge strong by continuing culture through creative practices, eg, artwork, photography, performance and storytelling (Janke et al 2021).

    One example of artmaking as caring for Country (that also illustrates the concept of the Living Archive), is the southeast Aboriginal tradition of possum skin cloak-making. For instance, stories of waterways and knowledge of Country are frequently mapped on cloaks. These stories also intersect with other creative practices that support ecological knowledge, including, for example, the large-scale 10-metre river reed eel trap made by Mitch Mahoney and Maree Clarke in collaboration with a broad section of the public at Footscray Arts with Science Gallery at UoM. The project elaborated Indigenous ways of doing to support healthy and sustainable land and waterways, while exchanging knowledge through artmaking.

    In 2022, the Living Archive has produced two possum-skin cloaks that connect stories of Country to people and places: one produced by Mahoney and Clarke with students at our partner university in the United States; and another (a work in progress) with Newcastle High School, NSW, students in collaboration with the Ngukurr community and southeast Aboriginal artists (Edmonds et al 2022).

    Aligning with the CRX project, Mitch Mahoney aims to take the unfinished/unmarked cloak to Ngukurr, as a process of cultural exchange between north and south. Opportunities for understanding climate knowledge through artmaking between two Aboriginal communities, located in diverse ecosystems, offers new ways of engaging with Indigenous ecological knowledge. We will take the opportunity to explore how artmaking within and between these communities is intrinsically connected to caring for Country. In this CRX project, UoM researchers, alongside Aboriginal community-based co-researchers, will progress the Living Archive as a space where Indigenous ecological knowledge as creative practice is centered and contributes a model and resources for the development of an interdisciplinary masters subject across the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, School of Culture and Communication and the Wilin Centre/RUIC to progress intercultural knowledge exchange among students and the university’s broad networks.

    This project centres Indigenous knowledge as critical for ecological wellbeing; it is led and guided by Indigenous knowledge holders and contends that everyone must engage with Indigenous knowledge to mitigate the climate crises. The project will expand on the work conducted through the ARC INDP Indigenous Storytelling and the Living Archive of Aboriginal Knowledge, led by Wiradjuri scholar and creative writer Associate Professor Jeanine Leane, in collaboration with co-researchers, southeast Aboriginal artists, Mitch Mahoney (Boonwurrung/Barkindji) and Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung), alongside the Ngukurr community in Arnhem Land.

In August 2021, Melbourne Climate Futures awarded its first round of sapling funding to eight diverse, interdisciplinary projects with a high likelihood of making an immediate impact on the climate problem. One year on, the Climate Research Accelerator (CRX) project leads presented on their research progress and the impact of the funding.

Learn more about the impact that these projects had:

2021 CRX Impact Report

2021-2022 CRX Projects

  • Closing the Land Gap via Ecosystem Approaches

    Kate Dooley – Project Lead

    This project has developed a new flagship Land Gap Report which examines the area of land required to meet projected biological carbon removal in national climate pledges and commitments.

    The report finds that almost 1.2 billion hectares (ha) of land – close to the extent of current global cropland – are required to meet the above removal. This finding shows that countries’ climate pledges rely on unrealistic amounts of land-based carbon removal, which cannot be achieved without significant negative impacts on livelihoods, land rights, food production and ecosystems. The report has now put a number on the global demand for land in country climate pledges.

    The Land Gap Report has generated global media interest, sparking an immediate conversation around the role of land in achieving net-zero climate targets. Such a conversation is a critical first step to achieve the long-term project outcomes – raising awareness of the trade-offs involved in land-based mitigation and proposing solutions for climate mitigation options that promote sustainable land use (enhancing biodiversity, food security and securing indigenous and collective rights to land) – which should shift national strategies.

    This project is influencing national, regional and international discussions and norm-setting around the role of land in national climate targets to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The CRX-funded activities kick-started the project so that the medium-term outcomes (a report and website) could be delivered. This has generated media interest that could lead to further national discussions, as well as international media and engagement in UNFCCC discussions. Longer-term goals include further stakeholder engagement for these discussions to lead to lasting systemic change around the role of land in climate mitigation.

    Read more about the Land Gap Report.

  • Creativity and Climate Futures: Establishing a Creativity, Ecology and Community Resilience Studio (CECR) at Dookie

    Suzie Fraser and Danielle Wyatt – Project Leads

    This project built on a collaboration between the Centre of Visual Art at the University of Melbourne and the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub at the Dookie campus to establish some key strategies for imagining into more positive experiences of drought and other precarious climate events in the future.

    By working closely with community members in and around Dookie in regional Victoria, the project team has been able to demonstrate that creative practice, playfulness and imagination are invaluable tools for breaking down barriers between university research and preexisting community knowledges to co-create more robust knowledges going forward. Arts practice has also been shown to enhance how we collectively navigate and adapt to uncertain climate conditions, strengthening our resilience as communities in the process.

    Bringing together researchers from the arts and sciences and participants from campus and community, this project has successfully shown that collaborative approaches to thinking about how we will live in the future are invaluable to ensure we realise innovative, imaginative, and inclusive strategies together.

    This CRX funding has strengthened impact by allowing the participants to work closely with the Future Drought Fund and to feature as the only creative-led project in the 2022 Science to Practice Forum. By featuring in national media outputs and engagement activities related to the Future Drought Fund policy program, this project is contributing to strategies for climate preparations at a national level.

    Moreover, by leveraging the CRX support to gain additional funding from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, this project has been able to platform the arts-led strategies being developed through this project across both regional and metropolitan Victoria. Cross-disciplinary collaboration will continue to be a cornerstone of this project as it progresses in the following 12 months.

  • Investigating post-disaster community resilience through network analysis

    Colin Gallagher – Project Lead

    This project examines the social networks of communities affected by the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires, building on work first started in the Beyond Bushfires research project and researchers from the social networks laboratory of the University of Melbourne, in conjunction with collaborators at Swinburne and UNSW, to examine how social relationships “co-evolve” with recovery outcomes, such as mental health.

    The methods developed from this project stand to fundamentally advance the science of community resilience as a network-based phenomenon. With a feasible approach to surveying network-based community resilience in hand, the research team used these advances as a springboard for engagement with a range of recovery agencies, exploring how information on social connectedness in a community may aid recovery workers. The project leads are already in the process of engaging with disaster practitioners to ascertain the usefulness of network analysis in the community.

    This project has helped to develop an economical and widely applicable way to measure social structure in a community. This has two primary benefits:

    • A huge advantage in local implementation of community-level public health interventions. In these programs, the assumption is that information and health benefits diffuse through the community network. By actually mapping the network, it will be possible to improve the implementation of these programs in a particular local context, in which particular network features may impede (or enhance) the efficacy of intervention.
    • By providing a standardised manner of mapping social structure, we gain a powerful new tool by which to measure and track the resilience of communities and better understand which are resilient to disruption and why. This will contribute to efforts to allocate resources more effectively.

    In terms of longer-term impact, the two PhD students contributing to this project (Januar and Pattenden) have developed widely useful skillsets in computational social sciences, broadening their capacity to carry on this line of research into the future.

  • Mothering in Crisis: Family, Disaster and Climate Change

    Carla Pascoe Leahy and Julia Hurst – Project Leads

    This project explores how climate change is impacting experiences of family life in the 21st century. Through in-depth oral history interviews, project researchers are examining the ways in which reproductive decisions and mothers’ childrearing practices are being influenced by environmental crises.

    The research has found that parents bear an additional burden during disasters, and that mothers play a key role in taking emotional and physical care of children in such times. As the climate crisis intensifies, mothers are finding their childrearing roles increasingly impacted and will need additional help to continue supporting their families through an era of environmental change.

    To date, climate change discussions have focused on readily measurable impacts on housing, infrastructure, industries and employment. There has been less recognition that climate change also influences our personal and cultural worlds. This project fills a critical gap in academic literature and popular understanding so that the full impacts of climate change can be measured and understood. Acknowledging that climate change also influences our experiences and understandings of family is a first step in beginning to understand what it means to be a mother in the twenty-first century, and what kinds of support mothers will require to support them through an era of intense and accelerating environmental change. This project has sparked understanding that adapting to climate change also means providing improved supports to families.

    On 2 December 2022, the Mothering in Crisis project leads presented their findings. Watch the recording here.

    Using CRX funding researchers interviewed mothers in the Gippsland region in Victoria. They have produced an article titled 'Care and crisis: disaster experiences of Australian parents since 1974' for The History of the Family academic journal.

  • Scaling Regenerative Agriculture

    Rodney Keenan – Project Lead

    Conventional farming practices in Australia have placed increased pressure on the environment, impacting land and water quality and biodiversity. Environmentally focused or regenerative agricultural practices have been proposed as a solution to these problems. This project involves a multidisciplinary team from the Faculties of Science, Business and Economics, and Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences working with Rabobank, Central Victorian Regenerative Farmers and finance sector experts.

    CRX funding provided the basis for development of the project with Rabobank, which aimed to (i) assess the benefits and costs of these practices and how they vary across farm production systems and climate conditions; (ii) explore relationships between sustainability measures and farm profit and productivity; and (iii) identify options for increased investment in these practices.

    This project has helped to develop a common understanding of farm and financial systems and the needs and challenges of the different actors in these systems. It has provided a basis for moving, monitoring, and reporting environmental practices on farm from a compliance focus to an investment value proposition. It has also instigated systemic change in the investment model for agriculture, moving from analysis of past performance to a future-looking model of risk adjusted returns based on plausible scenarios of practice change. The project has built a strong working relationship between the University team in different faculties and between the University and Rabobank. Rabobank commented that “this has become the most important University–Rabobank relationship outside of the Netherlands.

  • Climate Change Policy and Planning in School Education in Victoria

    Marcia McKenzie – Project Lead

    This project has helped launch a new ‘Environmental Sustainability in Schools’ policy for Victorian schools to advance sustainability and climate change action. The policy builds on the extensive history of sustainability education policy and practice in Victoria, including Sustainability Victoria’s ResourceSmart Schools initiative, and the work of a large network of government and non-government organisations that support Victorian schools to operate more sustainably. An extensive consultation has been undertaken with peak school bodies, youth organisations, and a range of education and climate change stakeholders to inform the development of the policy. The ‘Environmental Sustainability in Schools’ policy is an action under the Victorian Government’s Education and Training Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2022 - 2026 (AAP).

    The ‘Environmental Sustainability in Schools’ policy for Victorian schools has been developed through a research–policy-making partnership between the Department of Education (DE) and researchers from the University of Melbourne (UoM). The partnership involved collaboration between DE policy experts, sustainability and climate change education researchers from the UoM and the international Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project, along with input from sustainability education specialists at Sustainability Victoria. An extensive consultation process was undertaken with peak school bodies, youth organisations, school and student representatives, and a range of education and climate-change stakeholders to inform the development of the policy. The ‘Environmental Sustainability in Schools’ policy is an action under the Victorian Government’s Education and Training Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2022–2026 (AAP).

  • Young People‚Äôs Climate Change Capitals

    Phoebe Quinn and Katitza Marinkovic Chavez – Project Leads

    This project aims to support children and young people in sharing their wisdom and creativity in dealing with climate change, applying a strengths-based framework and participatory approach. This project resulted in the Your Climate Superpowers website.

    Thirty-one children and young people aged 12–25 in Victoria, Australia participated in a series of 5 workshops to co-design a resource along with researchers from the University of Melbourne. An additional 70 young people contributed ideas through a forum event and online. The co-designers shared insights into the strengths and assets that young people have, and how these can be drawn upon and developed to help young people navigate the climate crisis. They also guided the format, visual design, and principles for the resource: empowerment, inclusiveness, sustainability, participation, transparency, clarity and youth-focus. This process resulted in the Your Climate Superpowers website (www.climatesuperpowers.org), Instagram account (@climatesuperpowers), and a subscriber list via Mailchimp. Through the website, young people can take a quiz to find out about their ‘climate superpowers’ – social, natural, built, political, human, cultural and financial. They can then explore ways they can use these superpowers by taking on ‘secret missions’ across four categories: learning about climate change, self-care, everyday action and transforming society.

    This project introduced a website for and by young people in Australia that integrates strategies on how to deal with climate change from a strengths-based framework. Feedback so far indicates that it will be a highly valued resource for young people that addresses the dimensions of learning about climate change, dealing with climate change in everyday life, participating in collective action and self-care.

    The website will facilitate reaching out to young people and organisations for future projects, and we will be able to use it in further research as a prompt for discussions in participatory projects. We also expect this resource will become a valuable tool for educators who support children and young people in school and settings like scouts and environmental organisations. In this way, the project aims to contribute to promoting the wellbeing and empowerment of children and young people in Victoria in relation to the negative impacts of climate change.

    View the Your Climate Superpowers project.

  • Downscaling hydroclimate projections to advance integrated land-sea planning

    Rebecca Runting – Project Lead

    Integrated cross-realm planning has emerged as a way to prioritise multiple management actions across the land-sea continuum with the aim of preserving essential ecosystem functions and services. Much progress has been made in recent decades to quantify connections between ‘realms’, such as the impacts of land-borne pollutants on marine ecosystems. However, planning strategies that explicitly account for future climate scenarios remain elusive. Accomplishing this requires several assessments of how ecosystems, and their connecting processes, might change under different future climate sequences. This was the aim of this project.

    The Paddock-to-Reef modelling team is a program jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments which unites more than 20 industry bodies, government agencies, Natural Resource Management bodies, landholders and research organisations. CRX funding facilitated crucial collaboration with this team to embed climate projections into their hydrological and water quality models. This not only accelerated the timeline for a land–sea planning exercise that explicitly considers climate change, but it also accelerated the Paddock-to-Reef team’s medium-term goals of integrating hydroclimate projections into their modelling and reporting framework overall. The medium-term project outcomes rely on these projections and facilitate greater impact relating to decision-making in the Burdekin region, and for land–sea planning more broadly. CRX funding increased the impact of the PhD project and will assist in complex decision-making processes in the face of future uncertainty.

    This project has provided high-resolution, downscaled climate change projections across Australia out to the end of the century. A common issue with global climate projections is that they are too coarse to inform decision-making at the local/regional scale. This project outputs will be a critical step forward in guiding management actions for water quality improvements in the Great Barrier Reef basins. In addition, these outputs will extend benefits beyond the scope of the project into other areas of hydrological modelling and spatial planning, such as water resources and agricultural production.

    The project leads will continue collaborating with the Paddock-toReef modelling group to direct them in incorporating climate change into their overall modelling and reporting framework for the GBR. It is estimated that this will continue through the second quarter of 2023 as the team calibrates the hydrological models and assess pollutant delivery to the end of catchments. As of March 2023, the Paddockto-Reef modelling team is processing the down-scaled hydroclimate data and calibrating the catchment models against a baseline period. Ongoing collaboration with their team will enable this project to explore how different scenarios of climate change might affect local hydrology and pollutant delivery to the reef. This is an important step for this project, as well as the Paddock-to-Reef team’s long-term goals, which are to inform water-quality targets while accounting for climate change. Additionally, given that the spatial extent of the projections covers the entirety of Australia, the projections may be used to forecast regional hydrology beyond the scope of the Great Barrier Reef catchments. By examining potential future scenarios, the team can evaluate the efficacy of a multitude of actions in achieving water quality targets outlined in the regional Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.