Australian researchers say governments must step up and protect critical habitats to give wildlife a chance
— More than 20 native animals would disappear from the Great Dividing Range before the end of the century if global emissions continue at business as usual rates, according to new analysis by Australian researchers.
The University of Queensland and Australian Conservation Foundation study, published this week in Global Ecology and Conservation, examines native fauna in a part of the country that is home to three-quarters of the population and much of Australia’s biodiversity.
The scientists and policy experts used climate models from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change to assess how many endemic species could face extinction in the Great Dividing Range due to warming temperatures.
They examined 1,062 native species, and found 26 would go extinct by 2085 if the currently high global emissions trajectory continues. In that scenario, they assumed global warming of 3.7°C by 2085.
Of the 26 species the researchers said would not survive, 11 are found only in the Great Dividing Range and nowhere else on earth.
Under a lower emissions pathway of 1.8°C the Great Dividing Range would become climatically unsuitable for 16 species by 2085, including the 11 endemic species.
“The way emissions are tracking, we will lose a raft of species found nowhere else in the world, including the blue-winged parrot, Mount Claro rock wallaby, magnificent brood frog and painted spadefoot toad,” the study’s lead author, Sean Maxwell, said.
Another author, James Watson, said: “The fact is that there are 11 endemic species, which based off of this research, it appears they will be blasted off the face of the earth because there’s nowhere suitable for them to live.”
“That’s the really sad thing from this piece.”
But the researchers identify some hope for the remaining 1,036 animals for which they forecast some climatically suitable habitat would remain even under the most aggressive scenarios they modelled.
The paper identifies two large sections of habitat, one in northern Queensland and another in northern New South Wales, that would benefit the survival of hundreds of species if they were protected.
Watson said that could be done by governments establishing protected areas in those spaces, or through other means, such as stewardship programs that reward farmers and other landholders who keep habitat intact rather than clear it.
Another author, James Trezise from the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the research found at least 673 animals would benefit from protecting intact habitat, which he said was a strong argument for Australian governments prioritising policies to avoid deforestation.
They found another 270 species would be heavily reliant on governments committing to restoring habitat areas in southern Queensland, southern NSW and northern Victoria that had already been modified in some form by agriculture and other activities.
“We need to rapidly protect critical habitats and climate refuges for species if we are to give wildlife a chance in the face of climate change,” Trezise said.
“The next Australian government will have to step up on protecting the environment. This means introducing stronger national environment laws and investing in new protected areas, wildlife corridors and ecosystem restoration.”
by Lisa Cox | The Guardian