Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kangaroos Endangered by Global Warming

Global warming does not necessarily entail only more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but also drastic increases in temperatures worldwide. Over the next 50 years or so, the temperature in Australia is predicted to rise by about 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. While this may not seem like much on paper, new ecological studies show that most kangaroo species are endangered by this future shift.

One of them in particular, the antilopine wallaroo, faces a 93 percent loss of habitat if the temperature goes up by only 2 degrees. Further increases could very well mean the extinction of this species, as it is accustomed to wet, tropical habitats, which are in danger of becoming arid pastures once the climate gets warmer. In fact, the threat that global warming poses is not directed on the animals themselves, but rather on their specific habitats.

Grazing field and water holes could be depleted by the slightest variance in the normal temperatures, and kangaroos will face a difficult challenge, in that they will have to relocate from their usual, familiar grounds to other territories. While they might find that easy to do, the plants and vegetation they are used to living around may not be so lucky. It takes many generations for a species to adapt to change, but the necessary condition for the adaptation to occur is that at least some animals from that species are left.

Naturalists observing the behavior of the kangaroos over the last three years say that their ranges have already begun decreasing at an alarming rate. They argued that, in 20 to 30 years, all kangaroo habitats could be reduced by as much as 30 to 40 percent, regardless of their species. This is just an average estimate that doesn't take into account other factors that might threaten the animals, such as road accidents, hunting and meat consumption by the indigenous populations.

Experts say that understanding the key environmental connections between kangaroos, vegetation and humans is crucial to the creation of a long-term plan, aimed at reducing the potential impact that global warming could have on these creatures.

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