Airdate: May 23, 2012
Scientist: Steve Williams
Science Diary: Climate Change - Extinction?
Australia's white lemuroid possum may be the world's first mammal to go extinct via global warming.
Climate Change - Species at Risk
Music; Ambience: Birds, rain forest
JM: The Carbine Tableland of North Queensland, Australia is a World Heritage site, selected for the diversity of species here. But a warming climate is placing many of these species at risk. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. This month, a look back and an update on some of our favorite stories. Steve Williams is a field biologist at James Cook University, who has been studying the effects of climate change on the region.
SW: "About 5 years ago I did some predictive modeling, which was just some ways of trying to understand, well, where would those species occur if the climate warmed up by one degree or two degrees? The end result of that was that it was completely shocking, because what it showed was that we might be facing 50 to 80 percent of the species that I studied going extinct this century. In the region, there's about 700 species of vertebrates. Of those, about 350 or so live in the rainforest specifically. There are about 90 species which are found in these rainforests and nowhere else in the world. Of those 90 species of vertebrates, probably 70 or 80 percent of them are restricted to the tops of the mountains. And these are the species that are in the greatest danger from climate change."
JM: In December of 2008 scientists reported that Queensland's white lemuroid possum may be the first mammal to go extinct as a result of global warming. Prior to record temperature highs in the summer in 2005, Steve Williams recalls spotting these possums often. But he says that in three subsequent years of searching, none have been found. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.