Science Diary: Climate Change - Extinction: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: May 04, 2012
Scientist: Steve Williams

Science Diary: Climate Change - Extinction

Science Diary: Climate Change - Extinction
Small changes in climate can have a large impact on the creatures living in Australia's Carbine Tableland.

Science Diary: Climate Change - Extinction

Music; Ambience: birds, rainforest

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. 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 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. An example might be, there's a frog called Thornton's Peak Nursery Frog. And it lives literally in about the top 150 meters of altitude of one mountaintop. Its entire global distribution is about one and a half square miles. It's just got nowhere to go. The predictions are that one to one and a half degrees will push it off the mountain. The latest predictions from the intergovernmental panel on climate change suggest that the minimum we're likely to see now is about two degrees of warming. So that frog is in serious trouble."

JM: For more information on Steve Williams' work, visit Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.