Climate-resilient landscapes: an adaptation case study in NSW’s Northern Rivers region

Project start date: 01/09/2023
Project end date: 30/06/2026
NESP funding: $760,021 (GST-exclusive)

The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales is home to many culturally significant entities, threatened species and ecological communities at risk of extinction from the combined impacts of ecologically unsustainable land use, invasive species and climate change. The region is home to significant cultural values, wetlands, national parks, World Heritage Areas, declared Aboriginal Areas, Indigenous Protected Areas, Native Title Determinations and the remnants of the ‘Big Scrub’ subtropical rainforest.

This project is developing a climate change adaptation plan for focal culturally significant entities, threatened species and ecosystems of the Northern Rivers region, co-designed to be embedded in planning and initiatives by local communities and governments. Hub researchers are taking a bottom-up, community-centred approach, working with local Landcare, species-monitoring groups and Indigenous organisations. This process will integrate with adaptation and resilience planning being undertaken by relevant local, state and federal government agencies.

Landslide after the big flood on the road between Goonengerry and Federal in the Northern Rivers region. Photo Brendan Mackey.
Landslide after the big flood on the road between Goonengerry and Federal in the Northern Rivers region. Photo: Brendan Mackey.

Adaptation is needed both now and in the future. To be sustainable, adaptation strategies and options must be feasible and effective, have social licence, be culturally appropriate and be informed by local knowledge – including traditional knowledge. The project will deliver applied research outcomes and a web-based decision-support platform for stakeholders, including the data, information and tools needed to support adaptation actions for climate-related risks to species and ecosystems.

These are problems facing all landscapes and communities throughout Australia. The Northern Rivers region is a suitable case study where approaches and tools can be developed that are transferable to other regions.

Flood at Coopers Creek, NSW. Photo Oliver Costello.
Flood at Coopers Creek, NSW. Photo: Oliver Costello.

Key research areas

To address these climate adaptability challenges, this project is:

  • identifying focal culturally significant entities and biodiversity and assembling available biological and environmental data to map and assess critical habitat resources and ecosystem condition
  • building a climate-risk database and constructing climate-risk models
  • reviewing and evaluating current adaptation actions through consulting with communities and stakeholders to develop an adaptation plan that reflects shared values and priorities
  • producing decision-support materials including spatial digital data (maps), adaptation strategies and options and the web-based decision-support platform ‘Northern Rivers Adapts’.


  • Egret wading in the shallows at Tweed River. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Regrowth on a flooded gum after fire at Wollumbin. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • An old-growth pink bloodwood in Nightcap National Park, NSW. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • The endangered smooth Davidson's plum (Davidsonia johnsonii). Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Carpet python in Nightcap National Park. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Brush tailed rock wallaby. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Brahminy kite at Tweed River, NSW. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Blue quandong in Nightcap National Park. Photo: Patrick Norman.
  • Northern Rivers study region.