Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less