Charles Darwin University researchers have been awarded $692,830 as part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships scheme announced by Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham.

The project, to be led by Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods’ Senior Research Fellow Dr Brett Murphy, will investigate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in the Northern Territory savanna and how best to mitigate these impacts.

Dr Murphy and his team will use a range of modelling approaches to combine on-ground data from flora and fauna surveys with satellite imagery.

“Around the world, including in Northern Australia, there has been a long-term trend of habitat change with trees invading open grassy vegetation, impacting a range of plant and animal species,” Dr Murphy said.

“This trend is believed to be driven by a combination of elevated CO2, climate change and management actions including cattle grazing and fire suppression, but we don’t know the potential impacts on biodiversity.”

Dr Murphy said key benefits of the research would be an improved understanding of trade-offs between alternative land uses in the savannas, including biodiversity conservation, fire management for carbon credits, and cattle grazing.

“It is vital that with increasing pressure to develop Northern Australia we understand the potential impacts on the Territory’s unique biodiversity,” he said.

“This research will allow land managers using the savannas to maximise economic opportunities while maintaining biodiversity conservation.”

The funding is provided through the Australian Government as part of the outcomes under the ARC Future Fellowships scheme for funding starting in 2017.

The Future Fellowships scheme supports research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia.

The aim of Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers.

This story was first published in Leading Agriculture magazine.

Featured Image: Senior Research Fellow Dr Brett Murphy