News Release

Special Issue: Australia

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

In this Special Issue of Science, three Reviews, a Policy Forum, and a Perspective highlight Australia’s exceptional exposure to the risks of climate change and ecosystem degradation. Australia is home to Earth’s most ancient ecosystems and oldest continuous indigenous cultures, which have survived for more than 60,000 years. However, the continent’s unique ecosystems and cultural history have proved vulnerable to waves of European colonization and its associated social and environmental impacts. Ongoing climate change and the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples and their specific knowledge of land management have led to extreme wildfire and flooding events, marine ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and the disproportionate exposure of Indigenous Peoples to these hazards.

Although Australia’s surviving Indigenous cultures have adapted their ecological knowledge across climatic ages, European colonization and dispossession have severely curtailed Indigenous Peoples’ ability to adjust to climate change. What’s more, the system currently in place does not allow for Indigenous knowledge to help guide policies aimed towards addressing the current climate crisis. In one Review, Veronica Matthews and colleagues provide an overview of existing studies on Indigenous-led contemporary climate and health initiatives and argue for the need to attend to issues of restorative justice as a basis for respectful and constructive valuing of Indigenous culture and knowledge to inform climate change mitigation and adoption strategies.

Other papers in the Special Issue focus on integrating Indigenous water science to ensure sustainable and just water management policy; new strategies codeveloped with Indigenous Australians to conserve Australia’s iconic marine ecosystems; rethinking Australia’s wildfire management; and a Review on the loss of Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity.

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