Monday, June 27, 2016

Frist Known Extinction Due to Warming

Australia has the dubious honors of announcing the first known extinction due to global warming. The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) should be declared extinct in the wild say experts. The rat was endemic to the Bramble Cay in the Torres Strait and the only known mammal endemic to the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. In 2004 a survey found only 50 individuals living in a two hectare vegetation patch on the cay. The rat was first reported by Europeans in 1845.  Hundreds were found on the atoll in the 1970's. A new survey conducted in 2014 found no melomies on Bramble Cay. Researchers at University of Queensland conclude that climate change is responsible for the extinction since a rise in sea level resulted in multiple inundations of the low-lying atoll during the decade between surveys. Vegetation declined from 2.43 hectares to just 0.19 hectares, presumably reduced by invading seawater. The Torres Strait is notorious for treacherous seas and immense tides. The sea has risen 6mm a year between 1993 and 2010 or twice the global average. The study authors note there is a slight chance melomies exist on Papua New Guinea in the Fly River delta. Until that area is surveyed the rat should be declared extinct on the IUCN Red List.  Granted its just a rat, but the unfortunate melomys is a harbinger of extinctions to come.