Media & events

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 database of peer-reviewed literature. Arguments put forward in the one-page summary are supported by evidence listed in the literature database.

ESA members can contribute to Hot Topics by:

  • Creating a Hot Topic (suggest new Hot Topic button above)
  • Contributing new research to a Hot Topic (submit supporting evidence button on each Hot Topic 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

  • A/Prof. Dale Nimmo, Charles Sturt University, NSW

Managing Editor

  • Dr Judith Walters

Editorial Board

  • Prof. Don Driscoll, Deakin University, Vic
  • Dr David Duncan, University of Melbourne, Vic
  • Dr Rodrigo Hamede, University of Tasmania, TAS
  • Dr Brett Murphy, Charles Darwin University, NT
  • A/Prof. Euan Ritchie, Deakin University, Vic
  • Dr Daniel Rogers, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, SA
  • Dr Christine Schlesinger, Charles Darwin University, NT
  • A/Prof. Peter Vesk, University of Melbourne, Vic
  • Prof. Glenda Wardle, University of Sydney, NSW
  • Dr Holly Kirk, RMIT, Vic
  • Dr Megan Good, The University of Melbourne, Vic
  • Dr Ryan Tangney, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, WA
  • Dr Lizzy Lowe, Macquarie University, NSW

Current hot topics

  • Climate Change. Marine range shifts in SE Australia

    Documented range shifts already have impacts on ecosystems, human health and the economy
    The world’s oceans are warming at an accelerated rate due to anthropogenic activities. Over 100 species have undertaken polewards range-shifts along the south-east coast of Australia with expected positive and negative impacts in the invaded southern communities. Key risks of these range changes include ecosystem loss, increased risk of toxic algal blooms, and economic impacts on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Climate change: alters plant recruitment from seed

    Climate change threatens plant communities around Australia by altering plant recruitment
    Plants use environmental cues to trigger when and where seeds germinate. Changes in local environments, such as those driven by global climate change, have the potential to disrupt recruitment patterns in plants. Altered recruitment may change plant community composition, especially after disturbance. Planning for unexpected seed responses to global warming may require seeds to be conserved in off site seed banks, with the use of assisted plant migration as a last resort.
  • Climate change: underwater forest decline

    Loss of kelp forest places commercial fisheries at risk
    Ocean warming is causing a ‘tropicalisation’ of temperate reefs in eastern and western Australia, leading to a decline in canopy seaweeds that fulfil a role similar to trees in forests. Increasing temperatures have direct negative effects on cool water seaweeds and can also increase the rate at which herbivores eat them, leading to overall seaweed decline The disappearance of canopy seaweeds changes community structure, impacts biodiversity, and can lead to the collapse of Australia's most valuable commercial fisheries
  • Invader from the dark side

    Shade-tolerant weed threatens Australian World Heritage Rainforests
    Weeds are often associated with high light and disturbed habitats but shade-tolerant weeds are gaining attention as serious invaders of rainforests worldwide The shade-tolerant Cherry Guava (Psidium cattleianum) is emerging as a serious invader of rainforest understoreys in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, and is well-known to have the potential to displace native vegetation. The prognosis for control is good but incisive action is needed.
  • Northern Australia’s vanishing mammals

    Small to medium-sized mammals in northern Australia's vast savannas are in rapid and severe decline
    Many small to medium-sized mammals are rapidly declining in northern Australia, even in very large conservation reserves, and drivers of the decline remain uncertain. There is evidence that predation by feral cats plays a key role, especially when coupled with frequent, high-intensity wildfires, or heavy grazing by domestic stock. Management options are limited, but the high rates of decline demand immediate attempts at mitigation in key habitat (e.g. cat suppression, fire management), supported by continuing research.
  • Killer cats

    The devastating impact of feral cats on Australian biodiversity
    Feral cats have contributed to the extinction of at least 22 Australian mammal species and the decline of many others. They prey on 400 native and introduced vertebrates in Australia, including 16 globally threatened taxa. Experimental evidence of feral cat impacts is lacking, especially with regard to the potential effects of competition and disease transmission.
  • Weed risk set to rise

    New plant varieties bred for pasture will worsen the weed problem
    Many plants introduced for livestock production have become weeds of native ecosystems with major environmental, social and economic costs. New varieties of pasture plants that are already weeds in Australia can be developed and released without consideration of environmental consequences. Because these new varieties are bred with characteristics that are typical of invasive plants, their release will likely increase the impacts and exacerbate the spread of environmental weeds.
  • Feral horses in Australia

    Left unchecked they can have major ecological impacts
    A review of the global literature of feral horses in native ecosystems revealed that feral horses can damage waterways, degrade soils, spread weeds, alter vegetation structure, and threaten native species of plants and animals. We lack an understanding of how feral horse density (as opposed to occurrence) affects native ecosystems. Peer-reviewed research on the effects of feral horses on Australian ecosystems is urgently needed.
  • Forgotten pollinators

    Challenges for managing wild pollinators in Australian agricultural landscapes
    While honey bees are a versatile and efficient crop pollinator, many wild insect taxa, including bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and moths, are equally or more efficient crop pollinators. Wild pollinators can provide pollination insurance as environmental changes occur. Intensive management practices and widespread chemical use in agricultural landscapes are putting increased pressure on wild pollinators in other parts of the world, but little is known about the impacts of these drivers on Australian pollinators.
  • Ecological impacts of invasive cane toads

    An invader’s arrival is bad news for some native species, but good news for others
    1. The invasion of cane toads through Australia kills many large predators, that are poisoned when they try to eat large, highly toxic toads. 2. But most native species are not affected by toads, because they soon learn not to eat them; or else have a pre-existing tolerance to the toad’s poison. 3. The decrease in numbers of large predators benefits many smaller species, which increase in numbers after cane toads arrive in an area.
  • Burning giants in the tropics

    Will prescribed burning of giant eucalypt forests really help their regeneration?
    In the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, land managers use low-intensity fires to try to keep World Heritage Area rainforest from invading the understories of threatened giant eucalypt forest. These giant eucalypts need rare naturally-occurring high-intensity fires for regeneration. Burning these forests with low-intensity fires may actually affect their long-term health and negatively impact other non-target species.
  • Demise of the dingo

    The loss of a top predator would have consequences for native wildlife
    Dingoes are persecuted for similar reasons to the extinct Tasmanian tiger. Dingoes are controlled to reduce stock losses, in turn reducing the range of dingoes. The dingo provides positive conservation benefits to biodiversity, through suppression of feral cats, red foxes and over-abundant herbivores. Alternatives to lethal control and the dingo fence exist, with potential benefits to farmers and biodiversity alike.
  • Alpine grazing: does it reduce blazing?

    A large body of evidence shows that it does not
    There have been recent calls by the Victorian Mountain Cattlemen's Association to re-introduce cattle grazing in the Victorian Alpine National Park to reduce fire risk. Strong evidence gathered over many years convincingly shows that cattle grazing in the Australian high country does not reduce the risk of fire. Reintroduction of cattle to the Alpine National Park is extremely unlikely to reduce fire risk, but is highly likely to damage sensitive alpine soils and vegetation.
  • Tipping Point for Cockatoos in Perth

    Will Carnaby’s black cockatoo be squeezed out by urbanization?
    Banksia woodlands and pine plantations on the Swan Coastal Plain are critical foraging habitat for Carnaby’s black cockatoo. Banksia woodland is being cleared for development and most pine plantations will be harvested without replacement over the next 14 years. Substantial loss of feeding habitat will drive further decline of the already endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo.
  • WA State Barrier Fence

    restricts dispersal, may increase feral predators, worsens climate change impacts
    The Western Australian Government will extend and maintain a 1170 km fence across the state to exclude dingos and emu migrations from agricultural lands. The fence will prevent long distance seed dispersal by emus, is likely to help support high fox and cat numbers to the detriment of native mammals, and may fragment populations of non-target species.