SimKat: a virtual laboratory to explore the impact of climate change scenarios on the Western Australian wheat-belt
The impact of climate change on an entire agricultural region is often not clear (IPCC Report, 2007) due to the complex interactions between individual farmers’ behaviour with the biophysical landscape, the large range of multiple external and internal factors and the further complication of continuous changes to climate variables in time and space. As a striking example, the wheat-belt of Western Australia is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in Australia. Rainfall has already declined by more than 15% in the last decades and it is projected to further decline. Farm numbers are plummeting and the natural resource base is threatened by various soil degradation processes including salinity. The agricultural future of the region is highly unpredictable due to the complex and adaptive nature of human-landscape interactions. Nevertheless, policymakers relentlessly ask experts for such predictions to assist in anticipating upcoming issues and to take immediate decisions to influence future socioeconomic and environmental settings of the region for the better. It is fair to recognize that, to date, scientific research has provided answers to their questions that are only partly adequate and the best available biophysical science is insufficient. It is now of critical importance to understand the long-term consequences of climate change on these already threatened socialecological systems and to anticipate ways for local farmers to adapt.