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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 11, NUMBER 12, DECEMBER 1998

NEWS...
Ecological Effects Down Under


Item #d98dec39

On Dec. 21, the BBC News broadcast a story by Alex Kirby about two species of tree kangaroos and five of possums that are being threatened by climate change. These marsupials are temperate animals that have become isolated in the high misty mountains of the northern Australian tropics. They are among the remnants of a large marsupial population that used to inhabit the continent until a two-degree global warming occurred 5,000 to 3,500 years ago, causing a major wave of extinctions. Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are concerned that current trends will eliminate the habitat of these tree kangaroos and possums. CSIRO researcher John Kanowski notes that the higher CO2 content of the atmosphere “makes the leaves on which these animals subsist tougher and less digestible.” Moreover, he says, “We think they need cool conditions, not only to keep their body temperatures down, but also to provide the dew they drink. If the cool, wet forest retreats, the animals have no choice but to go with it.” The loss of these species would have an important feedback on the rainforest ecosystem: “These animals have been part of the rainforest for millions of years. Along with insects, they perform an important task in ?mowing’ the forest. Take away the animals, and you may also start to lose the diversity of the trees.”

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