Hot Topics

Hot Topics in Ecology are evidence-based syntheses of topics that are relevant to environmental policy development, land management and to broadening the community's ecological knowledge base. Hot Topics aim to deliver timely, factual overviews that promote the application of scientifically defensible ecological knowledge in public debate.

Each Hot Topic consists of a one-page summary and a data-base of peer-reviewed literature. Arguments put forward in the one-page summary are supported by evidence listed in the literature data-base.

ESA members can contribute to Hot Topics by:

Creating a Hot Topic (suggest new Hot Topic button below)

Contributing new research to a Hot Topic (submit supporting evidence button on each HT summary page)

Communicating an existing Hot Topic, online or through other media

ESA members who contribute new reviews to existing Hot Topics should notify the primary author if the 300 word summary requires updating in light of the new evidence (cc to

Hot Topics is governed by an editorial board consisting of ecologists from around Australia.

Chair, Hot Topics Editorial Board

Dr Brett Murphy, Charles Darwin University, NT

Editorial Board

  • Dr Alan Andersen, CSIRO, NT
  • Dr Jane Catford, University of Melbourne, Vic.
  • Dr Jane DeGabriel, University of Western Sydney, Vic.
  • Professor Don Driscoll, Deakin University, Vic
  • Dr David Duncan, University of Melbourne, Vic.
  • Professor Emma Johnston, University of New South Wales
  • A/Professor Menna Jones, University of Tasmania
  • Dr Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University, NSW
  • Dr Christine Schlesinger, Charles Darwin University, NT
  • Dr Rachel Standish, Murdoch University, WA.
  • Associate Professor Peter Vesk, University of Melbourne, Vic.
  • Associate Professor Grant Wardell-Johnson, Curtin University of Technology, WA.
  • Professor Glenda Wardle, University of Sydney, NSW.

Current Hot Topics:

Climate Change: trees under pressure

Global changes in climate are having a significant impact on forested ecosystems, causing increases in tree mortality rates, and decreases in tree growth and health.

Climate Change. Marine range shifts in SE Australia

Scientific evidence suggests that the world’s oceans are warming at an accelerated rate due to anthropogenic activities. Waters off the south-east coast of Australia are warming almost four times the global average, caused in part by the strengthening of the East Australian Current.

Climate change: alters plant recruitment from seed

Most plant species rely on seeds for recruitment and persistence in the landscape. Local environments have a strong influence on seed germination and so shifts in temperature and moisture caused by rapid environmental change may affect when, where and whether plants will recruit.

Climate change: underwater forest decline

Ocean warming causes physiological stress in cool water species and facilitates the expansion of warm water species onto temperate reefs. This is leading to range contractions of important cool water organisms such as canopy seaweeds, which fulfil a role similar to trees in forests.

Invader from the dark side

Environmental weeds typically invade open, disturbed areas or vegetation edges, and can have devastating ecological and economic consequences.

Northern Australia’s vanishing mammals

The decline of small to medium-sized (35-5500 g) non-flying mammals in northern Australia is one of our most urgent conservation issues. In Kakadu National Park, the site with the most substantial long-term evidence base, populations of many species have collapsed since the 1970s.

Killer cats

The domestic cat (Felis catus) was introduced to Australia by Europeans and now inhabits all of mainland Australia, Tasmania and a number of offshore islands.

Weed risk set to rise

Australia already pays a high price for introducing hundreds of exotic plant species for livestock pasture production. Many of these species have become weeds with major environmental, social and economic impacts.

Feral horses in Australia

Horses (Equus caballus) were introduced to Australia in 1788 and feral populations established soon after. Australia has the largest population of feral horses in the world (~400,000 individuals). A global review revealed that the ecological impacts of feral horses include:

Forgotten pollinators

Over 50 Australian crops depend on insect pollination. The ubiquity of the European honey bee has led to complacency over the need for pollinator conservation in Australia.