Why understanding climate change makes cents for the mango industry

At a recent workshop in Darwin, industry representatives heard that mango growing regions are set to warm up over the coming decades, with potentially serious impacts on mango production. Add in other changes, such as more intense rainfall events, and the news isn’t good. However, action now by growers with an eye to the future will help ensure enterprises remain sustainable. Understanding available climate change information is critical to this forward planning.

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Like the rest of the country (indeed, the world), Australia’s mango growing regions are warming up. Long-term temperature records from the Bureau of Meteorology show that, on average, temperatures across the country have risen by around 1°C since 1910. And it’s a trend that’s set to continue.

Along with warmer average temperatures, Australia’s mango growing regions can expect more hot days and fewer cold days in coming years. While the outlook for average rainfall is unclear, extreme rainfall events will be more intense as will tropical cyclones, although fewer are expected.

The timing and extent of these changes will largely depend on greenhouse gas emissions. If they continue at the current rate the impacts will be severe.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE MANGO INDUSTRY?

These impacts could include disruption to mango development; new pests to manage, as the changing climate allows species to change their ranges; changes to the timing of growing seasons; and damage to crops from extreme weather events.

There may also be indirect impacts. For example, roads washing out in floods or being damaged through extreme heat could hamper fruit transport, and labour costs could increase as working conditions become more difficult.

WHAT CAN GROWERS DO?

The first thing growers can do is get informed about climate change, to understand what’s in store for the future. Ensure your information is from a trusted source—CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, and government agencies and departments are good places to start. Look for evidence-based information over opinion.

Some growers are already starting to feel the effects of the changing climate and are taking steps to make proactive changes in their businesses, such as planting different varieties. Other adaptation strategies might include reviewing canopy management, nutrition and irrigation and shifting production zone. It is also worth considering the consequences of a changing climate along your supply chain, to identify climate sensitivities and consider ways to lessen their impact.

Of course, implementing these changes to mango enterprises is not trivial, and significant investments are not to be taken lightly. Understanding the extent and timing of climate risk before making decisions for the future is prudent.

FINDING AND USING CLIMATE CHANGE INFORMATION

Climate change projections are the best tools we have for assessing climate risk. They are developed using global climate models run on powerful supercomputers, and they provide us with plausible possible futures based on what we know about how the climate system works and on what we think greenhouse gas emissions might be. Because we can’t predict what social, economic and political decisions are made in the future, global climate models use a series of standard scenarios to determine the parameters for very low to high emissions futures. At present, the world is tracking along the highest emissions pathway.

The latest climate change projections for Australia were prepared by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in 2015, and can be found at www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au. The projections are delivered in a range of formats, from high-level summary statements through to detailed datasets.

When using climate change projections, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Projections are not predictions – they don’t tell you what the weather will be at a specific time and place in the future; rather they give you a possible range.

  • Projections are relative to the average over a reference period, e.g. 1981–2010.

  • We have more confidence in some projections (e.g. temperature) than others (e.g. average rainfall) because of the models’ ability to simulate them and because of our understanding of the underlying climate processes.

  • Projections from global climate models are at a resolution of around 200 km square grid cells. Higher resolution (downscaled) projections can take this down to 25 km resolution.

  • Not all risk management decisions require downscaled projections (which are not always available).

Please view the PDF version of this article in the Winter 2019 edition of Mango Matters for the full article (page 20).

For more information about finding and using climate change information, contact Mandy Hopkins at the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub on 03 9239 4649 or mandy.hopkins@csiro.au.