Hot Topics

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 Rachel Standish, Murdoch University, WA

Editorial Board

  • Dr Alan Andersen, CSIRO, NT
  • Prof. Don Driscoll, Deakin University, VIC
  • Dr David Duncan, University of Melbourne, VIC
  • Prof. Emma Johnston, University of New South Wales, NSW
  • Dr Bronwyn Fancourt, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QLD
  • Dr Rodrigo Hamede, University of Tasmania, TAS
  • Dr Brett Murphy, Charles Darwin University, NT
  • Dr Euan Ritchie, Deakin University, VIC
  • Dr Christine Schlesinger, Charles Darwin University, NT
  • A/Prof. Peter Vesk, University of Melbourne, VIC
  • Prof. Glenda Wardle, University of Sydney, NSW

Current hot topics

  • What does the Paris agreement mean for Australia’s ecosystems?

    Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C could significantly reduce climate impacts
    The aim of the Paris agreement is to keep global temperature increases well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and aim for a lower limit of 1.5 degrees C. On our current emissions path, it is likely that global temperatures will exceed the 1.5 target by the early 2030s. Australian heat extremes, similar to the record hot “Angry Summer” and high sea surface temperatures that killed Great Barrier Reef coral in early 2016, would be much more likely in a 2 degree C world than a world at 1.5 degree C.
  • A drop in the ocean: marine fish releases in Australia

    More fish in can mean more fish out
    Declining fish landings and increasing recreational fishing create an impetus to increase marine fish production through wild release of fish grown in aquaculture. Recent release programs, informed by ecological knowledge and quantitative models, have shown that recruitment, competition with the same species and predation greatly influence the survival of released fish to capture. Management policies are encouraging release programs that are monitored, evaluated and adaptively managed so that “more fish in can mean more fish out”.
  • Regional Forest Agreements fail to meet their aims

    Species declines and unsustainable forestry evident under RFAs
    The 20-year Regional Forest Agreements between State and Commonwealth governments are due for renewal. They aim to allow native forest harvesting while providing for conservation and future industry. RFA legislative framing precludes important federal legislation, reducing protection for native species of conservation concern. RFAs have comprehensively failed to achieve their key aims. Instead, vertebrate species declines, timber overharvesting, and forest instability is evident. Industry future is uncertain.
  • Australia’s Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests need attention

    Research on this underappreciated Australian biome lags behind rainforest and savanna
    Seasonally dry tropical forests are gaining international prominence as an endangered biome, but their status in Australia is underappreciated These forests often occur in unusual landscape settings and harbor unique and threatened biodiversity. The original extent of these forests is reduced and greater public awareness of their international significance and conservation value is needed Research is still needed to properly delimit these forests and to understand their resilience to climate change and other threats
  • Managing fire for plant and animal conservation

    Putting fire to work for conservation requires local knowledge
    Some studies show that more plant and animal species live in landscapes with a high diversity of fire histories, while others show no such relationship. The variation in fire regimes that will promote plant and animal conservation depends on the type of ecosystem. Fire management will be most effective when it is guided by local knowledge of plants, animals and and the habitats they depend on.
  • Managing tensions around urban flying-fox roosts

    Careful context-specific consideration is needed in decision making for urban flying-fox roosts
    Managing Australia’s increasingly urban flying-fox roosts is contentious because it requires the balancing of conservation, animal welfare, human health and amenity concerns. Attempts to move roosts have proven to be extremely costly and largely ineffective. Alternative strategies such as local management of roost vegetation; buffering communities against the impacts of droppings, noise and smell; and public education programs, may provide longer-term socially and environmentally-acceptable solutions.
  • Climate change: Alpine shrubs as ecosystem engineers

    Climate warming promotes shrub cover and range expansion via landscape flammability, snow accumulation and nutrient cycling feedbacks
    Alpine shrub cover is increasing in response to a warming climate. Shrub increases are enhanced by positive feedbacks involving fire responses, snow-drifting patterns, leaf litter decomposition and soil nutrient cycling. Critical knowledge gaps surround the rate of shrub range-expansion, the effect of shrubs on local extinctions and the future of mountain catchment water yields.
  • At high densities kangaroo grazing can reduce biodiversity

    Over-abundant kangaroos reduce the diversity of native wildlife and are a danger to threatened species
    Eastern grey kangaroos reach very high densities in south-eastern Australia due to the absence of predators and ready access to permanent water in farm dams. At high densities, kangaroos reduce abundance and diversity of plants and reptiles, degrade bird habitat and threaten an endangered mammal. Detection of the vulnerable striped legless lizard declines dramatically with high kangaroo densities. The literature recommends that grazing pressure be reduced where kangaroos are over-abundant to prevent biodiversity loss.