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Climate change effects on pasture systems in south-eastern Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 00:17 authored by Cullen, BR, Johnson, IR, Eckard, RJ, Lodge, GM, Walker, RG, Richard RawnsleyRichard Rawnsley, McCaskill, MR
Climate change projections for Australia predict increasing temperatures, changes to rainfall patterns, and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2) concentrations. The aims of this study were to predict plant production responses to elevated CO 2 concentrations using the SGS Pasture Model and DairyMod, and then to quantify the effects of climate change scenarios for 2030 and 2070 on predicted pasture growth, species composition, and soil moisture conditions of 5 existing pasture systems in climates ranging from cool temperate to subtropical, relative to a historical baseline. Three future climate scenarios were created for each site by adjusting historical climate data according to temperature and rainfall change projections for 2030, 2070 mid- and 2070 high-emission scenarios, using output from the CSIRO Mark 3 global climate model. In the absence of other climate changes, mean annual pasture production at an elevated CO 2 concentration of 550ppm was predicted to be 2429% higher than at 380ppm CO 2 in temperate (C 3) species-dominant pastures in southern Australia, with lower mean responses in a mixed C 3/C 4 pasture at Barraba in northern New South Wales (17%) and in a C 4 pasture at Mutdapilly in south-eastern Queensland (9%). In the future climate scenarios at the Barraba and Mutdapilly sites in subtropical and subhumid climates, respectively, where climate projections indicated warming of up to 4.4C, with little change in annual rainfall, modelling predicted increased pasture production and a shift towards C 4 species dominance. In Mediterranean, temperate, and cool temperate climates, climate change projections indicated warming of up to 3.3C, with annual rainfall reduced by up to 28%. Under future climate scenarios at Wagga Wagga, NSW, and Ellinbank, Victoria, our study predicted increased winter and early spring pasture growth rates, but this was counteracted by a predicted shorter spring growing season, with annual pasture production higher than the baseline under the 2030 climate scenario, but reduced by up to 19% under the 2070 high scenario. In a cool temperate environment at Elliott, Tasmania, annual production was higher than the baseline in all 3 future climate scenarios, but highest in the 2070 mid scenario. At the Wagga Wagga, Ellinbank, and Elliott sites the effect of rainfall declines on pasture production was moderated by a predicted reduction in drainage below the root zone and, at Ellinbank, the use of deeper rooted plant systems was shown to be an effective adaptation to mitigate some of the effect of lower rainfall. © 2009 CSIRO.


Publication title

Crop and Pasture Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


CSIRO Publishing

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Management of greenhouse gas emissions from animal production

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    University Of Tasmania