A degraded paddock with a stand of dead trees.

Preserving ecosystems underpins much of CSIRO's environmental work.

Science for our environment

CSIRO has a strong commitment to undertake research that is focused on the environmental challenges facing Australia today.

  • 31 May 2005 | Updated 14 October 2011

Our aim is to understand the connections between natural, agricultural, industrial and urban ecosystems.

In combining this research with economic and social processes, we are working towards Australia’s sustainability.

Responding to the big environmental issues

Australians have stewardship of a beautiful, diverse and unique environment.

Positioning Australia to respond to a changing climate, securing supplies of water to meet our domestic, agricultural and industrial needs, protecting our globally unique biodiversity and providing positive futures for Australian communities are the critical issues facing the nation.

Dry, cracked mud during a drought

Climate change may influence future droughts.

A positive CSIRO response to these challenges and opportunities will involve systems understanding, development and application of new technologies and careful balancing of economic development with ecological conservation.

Climate

Climate change demands a scientific response on three levels: we must understand the processes behind climate change, seek to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and develop ways of adapting to climate change.

Understanding climate change

CSIRO’s scientists have made substantial contributions to the world’s body of knowledge about climate change, as well as impacts on Australia.

Our science is revealing the connections between human activity and land, marine and atmospheric processes, and underpins national efforts to predict impacts.

Reducing emissions

Reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent challenge.

Positioning Australia to respond to a changing climate, securing supplies of water to meet our domestic, agricultural and industrial needs, protecting our globally unique biodiversity and providing positive futures for Australian communities are the critical issues facing the nation.

CSIRO’s energy research portfolio recognises a level of dependence on fossil fuels but envisages a secure, clean and cost-effective Australian and regional energy supply founded on Australia’s competitive resources and technology leadership.

Our work includes developing coal, gas and solar technologies for low and near-zero emissions and developing new technologies for converting coal, gas and biomass to transport fuels.

Adapting to climate change

CSIRO’s science encompasses adapting to both climate variability and climate change.

We are partnering with governments, industries and communities to inform national planning, regulation and investment decisions.

As well as finding local pathways to adaptation and caring for Australia’s natural environment, CSIRO’s is examining international responses to climate change to prepare for effects through trade, population movements and security.

Water

Sustainable management of water resources is one of the most immediate challenges facing Australia.

As demand for water increases, storage sites reach capacity and climate undergoes change, Australia must look to new strategies that reduce demand, increase efficiency, re-use wastewater and allow water to be traded.

Our science is informing the decisions on where and how to best invest in these options and providing enabling technologies. Achieving Australia’s water potential is a long-term proposition requiring scientific application, innovative partnerships and emerging pathways for adoption.

The Water for a Healthy Country Flagship is the largest research partnership focusing on water in Australia. It brings together Australia’s best scientific capabilities to address the sustainable management of our water resources and deliver relevant and effective water management options.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity is critical to long-term economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

Over the past 50 years humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable time in human history. The result has been a substantial loss in the diversity of life.

CSIRO is taking the lead in describing, understanding and using our marine and terrestrial biodiversity. We are also developing information systems to understand the consequences of change in biodiversity in response to habitat loss, the spread of invasive species and climate change.

Oceans


Ocean spray

Australia has one of the largest ocean territories in the world, a resource that remains largely unexplored and unknown.

The marine sector contributes more than A$30 billion to the Australian economy each year. The ocean also houses rich biodiversity, influences our climate and is an indelible part of the Australian psyche.

The Wealth from Oceans Flagship is increasing our knowledge of ocean systems, processes, resources and ecosystems, and providing solutions for managing Australia’s diverse ocean uses, from recreation and conservation activities to commercial pursuits.

Sustainable agriculture and forestry

Agricultural landscapes make up the majority of the Australian land surface, underpinning many rural and regional communities and contributing significantly to economic activity and export income.

Preserving and enhancing the value in Australia’s natural environment.

CSIRO’s research brings together many different scientific disciplines to address the challenges of economic, environmental and social sustainability in agriculture and forestry. Sustainability science is critical to the future of these industries.

CSIRO’s science and partnerships support sustainability in cropping and horticultural enterprises and we are working to reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Our forest industries science contributes to both environmental solutions as well as economic prosperity in regional Australia. Sustainable communities Australian communities in cities, rural areas and remote regions are experiencing problems such as unsustainable resource consumption rates and negative health impacts from rapid urbanisation. As Australia’s main independent source of knowledge to support urban and regional sustainability, CSIRO is helping address the needs of communities. We are providing scientific information to governments, industries and communities on resource use, urban planning, urban design, natural resource management and improving environmental quality of cities. Read more about the Australian National Wildlife Collection.