According to updated research, we could lose half of the species in the Daintree rainforest as a direct result of climate change.
As we Australians know, the Great Barrier Reef is writhing through a serious crisis. A warming planet alongside a series of bleaching events has left it a bland mere skeleton of its former vibrancy, with half the coral certainly dead.
However, there is another environmental apocalypse befalling another of our greatest ecological landmarks. The ancient Daintree rainforest has survived the previous 150 million years, but it may not survive us.
Despite it taking up less than 0.1% of our continent, it houses over a third of our mammal species, 41% of our freshwater fish species, half of our bird species, and the majority of our butterfly species. In fact, on the list of irreplaceable world heritage areas, it comes 2nd out of 173,000, and we’re set to lose it.
While old reports have predicted that we will lose half our endemic species by the end of this century, researchers at the Wet Tropics Management Authority at James Cook University suggest that it may happen sooner.
“Extreme heat is the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s coral bleaching event equivalent,” said the management authority in a recent statement, “with some mountain adapted species, like the lemuroid ringtail possum, unable to survive even a day of temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius.”
We all remember the hellish worst-ever summer we just lived through. In the Daintree, temperatures on the highest mountain in the wet tropics hit 39 degrees Celsius six times. Due to deforestation, the researchers claim, these heat waves could prove catastrophic.
As it stands, roughly 50% of tropical Queensland’s forest has already been destroyed, and about 52% of the wet tropics is now under pasture.
The researchers are now convinced that several key animals in the wet tropics are under severe and immediate threat directly from climate change.
“While, understandably, the Great Barrier Reef has received significant funding to address climate change impacts in recent years,” the statement reads, “investment in terrestrial World Heritage Areas has not been commensurate with the urgency for mitigating climate impacts on their World Heritage values.”
The head of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, has asked political leaders to explain how they would protect these natural wonders from further harm.
“Ultimately we are witnessing the destruction by climate change of one of the most ecologically important and beautiful places in the world that we as Australians have promised to look after on behalf of all humankind,” she said.