Global warming threatens Australia's iconic kangaroos

Oct 15, 2008

As concerns about the effects of global warming continue to mount, a new study published in the December issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology finds that an increase in average temperature of only two degrees Celsius could have a devastating effect on populations of Australia's iconic kangaroos.

"Our study provides evidence that climate change has the capacity to cause large-scale range contractions, and the possible extinction of one macropodid (kangaroo) species in northern Australia," write study authors Euan G. Ritchie and Elizabeth E. Bolitho of James Cook University in Australia.

Ritchie and Bolitho used computer modeling and three years of field observations to predict how temperature changes that are considered to be likely over the next half-century might affect four species of kangaroos. They found that a temperature increase as small as a half-degree Celsius may shrink kangaroos' geographic ranges. An increase of two degrees may shrink kangaroos' ranges by 48 percent. A six-degree increase might shrink ranges by 96 percent.

Ritchie says that generally accepted climate models predict temperatures in northern Australia to be between 0.4 and two degrees warmer by 2030, and between two and six degrees warmer by 2070.

The most significant effects of climate change are not necessarily on the animals themselves, but on their habitats—specifically, in amounts of available water. This is particularly true in Northern Australia, says Ritchie.

"If dry seasons are to become hotter and rainfall events more unpredictable, habitats may become depleted of available pasture for grazing and waterholes may dry up," the authors write. "This may result in starvation and failed reproduction … or possible death due to dehydration for those species that are less mobile."

And although kangaroo species may be mobile enough to relocate as the climate changes, the vegetation and topography for which they are adapted are unlikely to shift at the same pace.

The antilopine wallaroo, a kangaroo species adapted for a wet, tropical climate, faces the greatest potential risk. Ritchie and Bolitho found that a two-degree temperature increase may shrink its range by 89 percent. A six-degree increase may lead to the extinction of antilopine wallaroos if they are unable to adapt to the arid grassland that such a temperature change is likely to produce.

"Large macropodids are highly valuable economically, through both ecotourism and a commercial meat trade, and many species are an important food source for indigenous people," they write. "Therefore, it is critically important that we understand the ecology of Australia's native herbivores to ensure any further economic development will occur in an environmentally sustainable way."

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Wetlands not 'wetting' enough for invertebrates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wetlands not 'wetting' enough for invertebrates

47 minutes ago

Perth's southern wetlands are steadily drying and prolonged dry spells in the future will threaten the survival of their invertebrate fauna populations, research suggests.

Plug n' Play protein crystals

48 minutes ago

Almost a hundred years ago in 1929 Linus Pauling presented the famous Pauling's Rules to describe the principles governing the structure of complex ionic crystals. These rules essentially describe how the ...

Recommended for you

Shell files new plan to drill in Arctic

18 hours ago

Royal Dutch Shell has submitted a new plan for drilling in the Arctic offshore Alaska, more than one year after halting its program following several embarrassing mishaps.

Reducing water scarcity possible by 2050

19 hours ago

Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year ...

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MikeB
3.3 / 5 (8) Oct 15, 2008
In related news it seems that this temperature rise is exactly what snakes and other nasty beasties love! There will naturally be many more snakes, spiders and every other nasty thing you can imagine, and they will all be much more poisonous!
WillB
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 15, 2008
In other news, Global Warming threatens humans...
jeffsaunders
2.6 / 5 (7) Oct 15, 2008
MikeB, Why term snakes as "nasty beasties"? we cannot afford to apply anthropomorphic ideas to everything. Lets us call a snake a snake without trying to put them down at the same time.

Some snakes like it hot and some do not - so global warming is not "good for snakes" anyway.

WillB, so what. Humans threaten themselves all the time Global warming is no big problem for humans.

Desertification is a natural consequence of much of human practices and if we cause a problem it is only fair that we suffer the consequences.

What is not fair, is that other species have had their ranges restricted due to clearing and fencing to such a degree that global warming means they cannot migrate over time as required.
NotParker
4 / 5 (12) Oct 15, 2008
I wrote a computer model that predicts a 100C rise.

Send me some grant money!

GrayMouser
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2008
I wrote a computer model that predicts a 100C rise.

Send me some grant money!


I'll top your 100C and raise you 50C plus 25ft of ocean level increases.
robertg222
3.7 / 5 (6) Oct 17, 2008
I'll top that. I have a computer mode that shows 100c raise in the nothern hemisphere and a 100c drop in the souther hemisphere at the same time. We are all doomed. But if you send me money I can stop it from happening.
GrayMouser
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 17, 2008
I think they could have titled this something like "Global Warming Myth Shown to Possibly Threaten Australia's Iconic Kangaroos". News at 8...
Velanarris
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 17, 2008
I think they could have titled this something like "Global Warming Myth Shown to Possibly Threaten Australia's Iconic Kangaroos". News at 8...


Especially seeing as kangaroos lived through the 1900's until the 1940's when the recorded temps in the region were higher due to a lack of man made irrigation in the area.
deatopmg
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 18, 2008
how'd they survive the midieval warm(er)period? I guess polar bears and kangaroos et al never made to the present and what we see is an illusion.
C'mon - THINK!

All you you doomsters out there read this:
http://www.americ...u_1.html
Velanarris
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2008
how'd they survive the midieval warm(er)period? I guess polar bears and kangaroos et al never made to the present and what we see is an illusion.
C'mon - THINK!


Common sense and environmentalism typically do not go hand in hand. On the rare chance that they do, typically it's ignored.