Our rainforests are still green, but behind the leaves our unique Wet Tropics species are declining following the recent heat waves and the hottest summer on record.
The lemuroid ringtail possum is at imminent risk of extinction from known strongholds by 2022, according to research by Professor Stephen 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 and green ringtail possums, as well as bird species such as the golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds. Endemic mountain top plant species are also facing habitat loss within the next 15 years, including Australia’s only native rhododendrons.
To highlight the urgency, the Wet Tropics Management Authority Board released a statement calling for climate action and government investment to improve the resilience and protection of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. The statement generated a lot of interest and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science has provided funding to the Authority to scope out an effective adaptable response.
The Authority is already active in a number of areas to improve our understanding and to encourage actions to improve resilience of the landscape. A draft Wet Tropics Climate Adaptation Plan 2020–2030 has been developed and is due for release later this year. The plan will detail how the Wet Tropics community can collaboratively respond to the impacts of climate warming by actively managing the values, cultural and ecological function and integrity of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
A second Wet Tropics Climate Adaptation Plan workshop took place on 25 July. The workshop brought together NRM managers, Traditional Owners and industry leaders to review and define the focus and principles of the plan. The outcomes of the workshop are currently being summarised and incorporated into the draft plan.