The Board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority has called for urgent action and investment following new evidence of escalating climate change impacts on the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.
The lemuroid ringtail possum is at imminent risk of extinction from known strongholds by 2022, according to research by Professor Steve Williams from the Centre for Tropical Environment and Sustainability Science at James Cook University.
Similar trends are also evident for endemic Wet Tropics species such as the Herbert River ringtail possum and green ringtail possum, as well as bird species such as the tooth-billed bowerbird.
In response to this new evidence, the Board today released a statement and 10-point plan calling for urgent action and government investment to improve the resilience and protection of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.
The statement highlights the serious threat of climate change to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area: ‘Extreme heat poses a real and significant threat to our mountain adapted species, like the lemuroid ringtail possum, which are unable to survive even a day of temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius.'
Chair of the Board, Leslie Shirreffs, said Professor Williams’ new evidence shows the accelerated decline of key species in the Wet Tropics, including the lemuroid ringtail possum.
‘Action must be taken now to build the resilience of the Area, as well as strong action on reducing emissions,’ Ms Shirreffs said.
‘Climate change adaptation and mitigation to protect the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is a top priority of the Wet Tropics Management Authority Board,’ she said.
The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is very well researched and monitored which allows this assessment to be presented. It can be assumed that tropical forests and ecosystems around the world are similarly impacted or worse.
Ms Shirreffs emphasised that even immediate action would not prevent ongoing temperature increases.
‘With current trends, the world is locked into 20 years of increasing temperatures. Action and significant investment is needed to reduce other threats now to ensure these areas are as robust as possible to withstand those increasing temperatures,’ she said.
At a special out-of-session meeting the Board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority decided to bring the challenges facing the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area to a wider audience.
The Board is optimistic that the collaboration and investment on a range of activities and actions now will ensure the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the world’s oldest living rainforest, is as robust as possible to withstand increasing temperatures.
‘Australia has the resources and expertise to be a leader in responding to local climate change challenges,’ Ms Shirreffs said.
Photo: Lemuroid ringtail possum (Wet Tropics Images / Johnathan Munro)