Global warming could seriously diminish kangaroo populations over the next 20 years, according to researchers from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
The result of the study has been published in the December issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.
The researchers, Euan G. Ritchie and Elizabeth E. Bolitho, estimate that a 2 percent increase in temperature could shrink kangaroos’ ranges by 48 percent. A 6 degree increase in temperature could shrink ranges by 96 percent.
These projected temperature ranges are not unheard of either. Climate models indicate that a temperature increase of between 0.4 and 2 degrees is likely to occur in northern Australia by the year 2030, and anincrease of between 2 and 6 degrees is expected by 2070.
Global warming could force one species of kangaroo to extinction.
The antilopine wallaroo, a kangaroo species that resides in wet tropical climates, may become extinct if temperatures increase by 6 degrees.
It all depends on how the animal can adapt. Such a temperature increase would produce an environment that is seriously lacking in water. Even an increase in 2 degrees could shrink its geographic range by 89 percent.
The Main Cause - Less Water
The decrease in available water is what would cause the most harm. It’s likely that the kangaroos themselves could cope with higher temperatures - as long as their habitat didn’t change. Unfortunately, increased temperatures would lead to less available water, and less water would lead to a much different (and drier) environment to live in.
The kangaroos would be forced to adapt or move. Unfortunately, even if they could move to another environment, it’s unlikely that the vegetation and topography that they’re used to, would shift at the same rate.
The authors of the study write, “If dry seasons are to become hotter and rainfall events more unpredictable, habitats may become depleted of available pasture for grazing and waterholes may dry up, this may result in starvation and failed reproduction… or possible death due to dehydration for those species that are less mobile”.