Romeo Lahey Memorial Lecture 2024: Climate Change: How should National Parks prepare for the changes and challenges this will bring?’ – National Parks Association of Queensland

Romeo Lahey Memorial Lecture 2024: Climate Change: How should National Parks prepare for the changes and challenges this will bring?’

Author: Karin Cox

Some 45 members and guests attended the Kedron Room at Brisbane City Hall on Saturday 20 April for the 2024 Romeo Lahey Memorial Lecture, given this year by Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Kerrie Wilson.

Honouring the principal founder and long-standing former President of the National Parks Association of Queensland (NPAQ), the annual lecture explores the challenges and opportunities Queensland’s protected areas face – and poses potential solutions. Few challenges loom as large in conservation biology as climate change, making Professor Wilson’s contribution both valuable and topical.

Romeo Lahey was instrumental in convincing the Queensland Government to declare many of the state’s national parks gazetted up to the 1970s. Parks that many millions enjoy annually, such as Lamington, Girraween and Springbrook, owe their protection to his vision. Today, these wild places conserve species as diverse as the Lamington spiny crayfish (Euastacus sulcatus), the eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) and the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus). Following in Lahey’s footsteps are many passionate conservationists, scientists and visionaries who seek increasingly creative and technological solutions for fixing conservation problems on the ground, such as ensuring protected areas cover a wide range of ecosystem types, linking protected areas together for ease of access and to encourage gene flow, undertaking pest and weed management, and enhancing visitor services and environmental interpretation. Crucially, acquiring and protecting more private land to meet sustainability targets, such as 30 by 2030, also provides a buffer for the threats caused by climate change.

Dr Wilson speaking
Professor Wilson speaking
Attendees listening to the 2024 Romeo Lahey Memorial Lecture
The presentation laid out the scope of protected areas and the challenges faced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Wilson’s speech likened national parks to artworks in a gallery – precious heritage requiring ongoing protection. However, Nature’s masterpieces are less static. Scientists must first gather data to predict the disruptions protected areas and the species that inhabit them will experience – much of which work is already underway – and then find ways to counteract these threats, which may require more invasive solutions, such as translocations or the assisted migration of some species due to temperature or sea level rises.

The challenge for those involved in parks management and conservation is inspiring visitors to connect with national parks and the biodiversity they contain, and to advocate for the funding, attention and staffing required to combat the worst effects of our changing world.

The National Parks Association of Queensland is embarking on an ambitious program that aims to connect residents to local protected areas, encouraging them to act as ambassadors for Queensland parks, freeing up valuable ranger time for the purposes of conservation biology.

We thank Professor Wilson for her generosity in offering her time and her valuable insights on protected areas and the effects of climate change. Review the slide presentation for the 2024 Romeo Lahey Memorial Lecture here.

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