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Airdate: May 11, 2012
Scientist: Steve Williams

Science Diary: Climate Change - Running

Science Diary: Climate Change - Running
In the highlands of Australia, animals trying to escape rising temperatures may soon have no place to go.

Science Diary: Climate Change - Running

Music; Ambience: Night wind in rain forest canopy, frogs

SW: "One of the important reasons for understanding this area we're in is that it's one of the areas that will remain cooler as the climate warms. And so a lot of the animals that only live in these mountain top rainforests - this might be one of the best areas that they can take refuge in."

JM: Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. In the Carbine Tableland of North Queensland, Australia, field biologist Steve Williams is studying the impact of climate change on the animals that live in this wildlife refuge. It's about 3000 feet in altitude, cooler than the surrounding areas, but the temperature here too, has been slowly rising

SW: "Millions of years ago, it was a much cooler place. So a lot of the animals that live here evolved in essentially a sort of a cool, wet environment. What that means now, is that they're restricted to the top halves of these mountains. In some cases, they're restricted to the very tips of these mountains. So as the temperature warms up, these animals prefer a cooler, damp environment. So, effectively, as the temperature warms up, they get pushed up the mountain. And they've just got very little space to go. They already live in the tops of the mountains. It only takes two, three degrees, depending on which mountain and so on, to push them right off the top of the mountain. They can't move to the north, the south, east or west. There's dry forest in all directions. They can't go anywhere but up the mountain. And, as the climate warms up, they're rapidly running out of space."

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.