The World's Oldest Rainforest Is Heading Towards Climate Destruction

Environmental activists have called for urgent action after finding new evidence that the wet tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area is heading towards destruction as a result of climate change.

The board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority have sounded the alarm for urgent government intervention in the north-east Queensland rainforest, claiming heat from climate change is leading to pushing some animals in the region close to extinction.

The group has warned that the government needed to make serious investments to prevent the Wet Tropics -- the world's oldest living rainforest -- from being destroyed by the rapid rise in global temperature.

Rare white lemuroid possum. Source: Wet Tropics Management Authority.

Leslie Shirreffs, chair of the authority, told 10 Daily this is particularly concerning considering many species are absolutely unique to the region, such as the lemuroid possum.

Professor Steve Williams, a researcher from James Cook University, has extensively surveyed the region since the summer of 2015. He said he has witnessed huge declines across multiple species in the lower-lying regions of the rainforest.

Source: Wet Tropics Management Authority.

The summer of 2018 was the world's hottest on record. As a result, the animals seem to be dying out in the lower, hotter regions and populations are retreating to the mountain areas.

While the organisation's original models predicted more than half of the endemic species could be extinct by the end of the century, the latest update found the newest information suggested "that these extinctions are happening even sooner".

According to the organisation's projections, the lemuroid possum could be extinct in regions where they used to be found in high density as early as 2022.

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Source: Wet Tropics Management Authority.

While the Great Barrier Reef has become somewhat of a poster child for the impact of climate change in Australia, the Wet Tropics board noted the funding that has been directed towards its relief has not been matched for other World Heritage listed areas in Queensland, despite its imminent decline.

Shirreffs believes that new approaches to conservation -- such as genetic testing, assisted migration, or captive breeding -- may be needed to sustain the populations of endangered animals in the region.