For thousands of years, our world’s climate has been continuously and dramatically changing. Geological records indicate fluctuations in global temperatures and extreme weather patterns to be normal; however, as society advances and technology evolves, greenhouse gases increase resulting in global temperatures rising at increasingly alarming rates. Not only does this impact the survival of humans, our wildlife has become the victim of this ever-changing world.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, it is estimated that 1,000 – 10,000 animal and plant species become extinct each year due to human impacts, with the potential to accelerate further due to climate change.
Many species are highly vulnerable to any changes in their environment. A mere one degree Celsius temperature rise can shift a species’ ecological home range by hundreds of kilometres. Climate change also causes variance in habitat and food resources that can highly impact the ability of a species to maintain sustainable populations. The bottom line: our wildlife will either have to adapt and survive, or risk extinction.
Take, for example, our koala. For this iconic species, the IUCN Red List classifies the impacts of climate change as “likely to have severe consequences”. Changes in greenhouse emissions have the potential to impact the nutritional value of eucalyptus leaves resulting in current koala habitat becoming unsuitable. The affected animals would then be forced to find new habitat, a move made all the more difficult and unlikely by the highly fragmented nature of our landscape.
The debate about climate change has been waging worldwide for too long now, resulting in the loss of too many species and too much biodiversity in that time. Strategically targeting the leading causes of human-induced climate change is essential for the survival of our wildlife. By reducing fossil fuel emissions, limiting deforestation and increasing sustainable planning for human growth, possibly the impacts of climate change can be mitigated to some degree.
But as with all positive disruption, if we work collectively to mitigate the impacts of climate change then maybe we can help our wildlife manage the consequences of our changing world.
Will our wildlife ever have a chance of reclaiming, or even surviving in, a human-dominated world? If Wildlife Queensland members and supporters have anything to say about it, then yes. However we must encourage our community as a whole to engage in matters of climate change and understand the impact it will have on our wildlife.
These issues and more will be targeted as Wildlife Queensland presents Wildlife Matters: in a Climate of Change in just two weeks’ time.
Attendees of the half-day symposium will hear from a number of speakers from a range of backgrounds such as Professor Lesley Hughes, Councillor at the Climate Change Council, Dr Richard Fuller and Dr Kathy Townsend from the University of Queensland, and Dr Gordon Guymer, Director of the Queensland Herbarium, Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation.
Following the symposium, Jon Dee, one of Australia’s most influential advocates of positive environmental change, will be guest speaker at Wildlife Queensland’s annual dinner. If you haven’t already bought your ticket to this important event for our wildlife, please consider doing so and inviting a few friends along – perhaps someone who is currently unaware of how rapidly the world is changing for our wildlife.
by Penelope Webster
University of Queensland placement student