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Australian rainforest species' facing unprecedented extinction threat

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Christian Fernsby |
Australian rainforest
Australia   Australian rainforest

Over half animal species in Australia's northern wet tropics are facing the threat of extinction after the hottest summer on record, according to a government agency.


In a statement released on Monday, the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) an agency funded by the federal and Queensland state governments said that more than half the species endemic to the rainforests in northern Queensland could be extinct within decades.

The board of the WTMA called for urgent action to curb Australia's greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the World Heritage-listed area, which is the world's oldest surviving tropical rainforest.

"Action must be taken now to build the resilience of the Area, as well as strong action on reducing emissions," WTMA chair Leslie Shirreffs said in the statement.

"With current trends, the world is locked into 20 years of increasing temperatures. Action and significant investment is needed to reduce other threats now to ensure these areas are as robust as possible to withstand those increasing temperatures."

The wet tropics run parallel to the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, and include two national parks the Daintree and Barron Gorge.

The WTMA warning came after a study by Steve Williams, a Professor at James Cook University's Centre for Tropical Environment and Sustainability Science, found that the lemuroid ringtail possum could be locally wiped out by 2022.

Mountain-adapted species such as the possum cannot survive temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius but during the summer of 2018-19, temperatures exceeded 39 degrees on six days on the highest mountain in the tropics.

"If the trends continue, populations at sites that previously had the highest density of lemuroid ringtail possums in the region could become locally extinct as early as 2022," Williams found.

"This species is currently not even classified as endangered."


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