Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some sad news from Australia...

First Mammalian Casualty
of Climate Change?

It may be time to pay our respects to the White Lemuroid Possum. It appears that the fuzzy white animal beat out Polar Bears to become the first mammalian victim of climate change, according to Australian scientists.

White Lemuroid Possums are a very rare subspecies of Hemibelideus lemuroides, found only in the upper altitudes of Queensland's northern rainforests.

"Prior to 2005 we were seeing a lemuroid every 45 minutes of spotlighting at one main site at Mt Lewis," Professor Stephen Williams, director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University, said in an Australian news article. "But, in three years, in more than 20 hours of intensive spotlighting, none has been sighted."

Australia has seen about a 0.8 degrees C increase in average temperature in the last decade or so. Scientists haven't found a white possum since temperatures rose by half a degree. But it's not the average temperature change that is killing off possums - it's the record ones. According to Professor Williams, even a few hours at temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius are enough to kill the extremely temperature-sensitive species.

Next year, researchers will conduct one last massive search of the highest regions of the cloud forests of the Daintree Rainforests north of Cairns in search of the little white possum. However, it doesn't look good for the little tree dwellers. The species has already earned the nickname the "Dodo of the Daintree." Scientists fear it is but one example of what is to come in the near future due to global warming, especially in areas like the lush but vulnerable rainforests of Australia.