Linking eco-energetics and eco-hydrology to select sites for the assisted colonization of Australia's rarest reptile

Nicola Mitchell, Matthew R. Hipsey, Sophie Arnall, Gavan McGrath, Hasnein Bin Tareque, Gerald Kuchling, Ryan Vogwill, Murugesu Sivapalan, Warren P. Porter, Michael R. Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assisted colonization-the deliberate translocation of species from unsuitable to suitable regions-is a controversial management tool that aims to prevent the extinction of populations that are unable to migrate in response to climate change or to survive in situ. The identification of suitable translocation sites is therefore a pressing issue. Correlative species distribution models, which are based on occurrence data, are of limited use for site selection for species with historically restricted distributions. In contrast, mechanistic species distribution models hold considerable promise in selecting translocation sites. Here we integrate ecoenergetic and hydrological models to assess the longer-term suitability of the current habitat of one of the world's rarest chelonians, the Critically Endangered Western Swamp Tortoise (Psuedemydura umbrina). Our coupled model allows us to understand the interaction between thermal and hydric constraints on the foraging window of tortoises, based on hydrological projections of its current habitat. The process can then be repeated across a range of future climates to identify regions that would fall within the tortoise's thermodynamic niche. The predictions indicate that climate change will result in reduced hydroperiods for the tortoises. However, under some climate change scenarios, habitat suitability may remain stable or even improve due to increases in the heat budget. We discuss how our predictions can be integrated with energy budget models that can capture the consequences of these biophysical constraints on growth, reproduction and body condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 27 2012


  • Assisted colonization
  • Climate change
  • Hydroperiod
  • Pseudemydura umbrina
  • Rainfall decline
  • Thermodynamic niche
  • Tortoise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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