Supporting Central Coast Council on the expansion of its conservation estate
Among the many causes of habitat loss, urbanisation coupled with climate change has produced some of the greatest local extinction rates and has led to the loss of a large number of native species. Managing native vegetation in a rapidly expanding urban setting requires land management strategies that are cognizant of these impacts and in particular how species and communities may adapt to a future climate. This study assessed patterns of land use changes and examined these in relation to four threatened vegetation communities, using habitat suitability models. The aim was to identify climate refugia for these communities within the constraints of land-cover changes. The research was focused on a local government area in New South Wales, Australia, that is undergoing residential, commercial and agricultural expansion resulting in the transition of native forest to other more intensive land-uses. Our results showed that the key drivers of change from native vegetation to urban and agriculture classes were population density and proximity to urban areas. We found that two of the most cleared vegetation community types are physically restricted within land owned or managed by council, suggesting their long-term viability is more uncertain under a warming climate. We propose complementary management measures including biodiversity offsets and acquisition of climatically suitable land to secure a network of habitats for these communities.