Eight Animals That Climate Change Is Pushing to the Brink
When Australian scientists announced in June that the Bramble Cay melomys had gone extinct, they also confirmed that the small, ratlike rodent is the first mammal species to be wiped out by the effects of climate change. The loss means both that the melomys’ evolutionary and genetic heritage are gone forever and that climate change is altering global biodiversity.
The melomys was named for the one place in the world it existed for thousands of years: Bramble Cay, a small island along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef that sits barely 10 feet above the waterline. Rising sea levels and more extreme storms, both caused by rising global temperatures, flooded out the melomys’ habitat and food supplies faster than researchers could obtain government permission to bring the animal to the mainland for captive breeding, The Guardian reported.
Here are eight other threatened or endangered animals that climate change may drive to extinction faster than thought. Global warming is not the only challenge these species face, but it might be what pushes them over the edge of existence—unless nations slow climate change and find conservation solutions.
Found only at a few sites near glaciers in the high Andes mountains of Peru, this bird has few options as development combines with climate change to deprive it of habitat. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, fewer than 300 individuals are left, and “urgent conservation action is required to preserve and restore remaining habitat.”
Habitat loss and hunting have driven down the population of this little primate. Its remaining numbers are concentrated in one area of Madagascar: the Masoala Peninsula. This makes the species more vulnerable to the destructiveness of the region’s more frequent and intense cyclones, an effect of climate change.
This marine bird is found primarily on just one island in the Galápagos archipelago. The waved albatross population has become critically low because of oil pollution, fatal encounters with fishing boats and gear, and “global warming and its effects on the frequency and strength of El Niño events,” according to the Galapagos Conservancy.
This Arctic bird, which breeds on coastal tundra habitat in the Russian Far East, has long been threatened by loss of migratory habitat and trapping in its Asian wintering grounds. Now the changing Arctic, which is warming at a faster rate than any other region of the world, is increasing the pressure on the extremely endangered bird.
The critically endangered parrot breeds in Tasmania and winters on the coast of southern Australia. Loss of winter habitat has pushed its numbers down to under 50 individuals, according to the IUCN Red List, which may leave the species especially vulnerable to extreme storms driven by climate change.
Like all sea turtles, hawksbills have long been threatened with extinction by loss and degradation of habitat, overhunting, and entanglement with fishing gear. Hawksbills forage for food on coral reefs, which are in the midst of a massive global die-off caused by climate change.
The Atlantic cod was once a staple catch for the New England fishing industry, but overfishing depleted the population. Despite years of strict quotas that should have enabled a recovery, the fish has failed to rebound. In October, scientists announced the reason: The quotas did not account for the effects of climate change. Rapidly rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have depressed both reproduction rates and the survival of young cod.
The population of this year-round Arctic resident has plummeted 80 percent in the past few decades. In 2014 scientists reported that diminishing Arctic sea ice was the primary reason for its decline.