Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

First Mammal Driven to Extinction by Human-Caused Climate Change Is Australian Rodent

Animals
The Bramble Cay melomys. State of Queensland / CC BY 3.0 AU

A small Australian rat that lived on a 12 acre island in the Great Barrier Reef has become the first mammal to go extinct primarily because of human-caused climate change, the Australian Government confirmed Monday.

The Bramble Cay melomys was first declared extinct after a 2014 search on Bramble Cay, its native island in the Torres Strait, between Queensland, Australia and Papua New Guinea, according to a 2016 report by the University of Queensland and the Queensland government.


"The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals," the report authors concluded. "Available information about sea-level rise and the increased frequency and intensity of weather events producing extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges in the Torres Strait region over this period point to human-induced climate change being the root cause of the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys."

Charles Darwin University professor John Woinarski, who has worked on the species, told the program Hack on Australia's ABC News that a 2008 recovery plan drafted for the species was never implemented.

"It's been known for a couple of decades it was in a pretty precarious position," he told Hack. "It suffered from living a long way away from anywhere else, and being a rat and being not particularly attractive. It didn't have much public advocacy for it."

Researchers believe there were several hundreds of the species on the island in the 1970s, but its numbers had fallen enough by the 1990s that it was listed as endangered, CNN reported.

An attempt to save the species with a captive breeding program took place too late. When researchers went to search for the melomys in 2015, they could not find a single rat left, according to Hack.

Greens Party Senator Janet Rice used the extinction to argue against Australia's reliance on fossil fuels.

"Bramble Cay melomys' extinction is an absolute tragedy," she said, according to CNN. "Labor and Liberal's addiction to coal is the death warrant for many of our other threatened animals."

If global greenhouse emissions are not reduced and global temperatures continue to increase, almost eight percent of species could go extinct, according to a 2015 University of Connecticut study. Australia, along with New Zealand and South America, is most at risk for losing its biodiversity due to climate change.

In the same press release that confirmed the melomys' extinction, Australia's Minister for the Environment Melissa Price also announced that the spectacled flying fox would now be listed as an endangered species, up from vulnerable, after a 2018 heat wave in Queensland cut its numbers by one third, according to The Guardian.

"The uplisting of the Spectacled Flying-fox reflects the Government's heightened concern for its future, given that the population has halved in the past decade, and was heavily impacted by a recent heat stress event in north Queensland," Price wrote.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less
African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less
People relax in Victoria Gardens with the Houses of Parliament in the background in central London, as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius on June 25, 2020. NIKLAS HALLE'N / AFP via Getty Images

The chance that UK summer days could hit the 40 degree Celsius mark on the thermometer is on the rise, a new study from the country's Met Office Hadley Centre has found.

Read More Show Less
A crowd of people congregate along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020, amid a surge in coronavirus cases. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP / Getty Images

By Melissa Hawkins

After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

Read More Show Less
A Chesapeake Energy drilling rig is located on farmland near Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 2012. Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

Climate advocates pointed to news Sunday that fracking giant Chesapeake Energy was filing for bankruptcy as further evidence that the fossil fuel industry's collapse is being hastened by the coronavirus pandemic and called for the government to stop propping up businesses in the field.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Youth participate in the Global Climate Strike in Providence, Rhode Island on September 20, 2019. Gabriel Civita Ramirez / CC by 2.0

By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud

Human beings all over the world agreed to strict limitations to their rights when governments made the decision to enter lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. Many have done it willingly on behalf of the collective. So why can't this same attitude be seen when tackling climate change?

Read More Show Less