Australian white lemuroid possum, climate change victim?

White lemuroid possumFrom ABC in Australia:

White possum may have become ‘climate change casualty’

December 3, 2008, 4:23 pm

The white lemuroid possum has been known to thrive in the cooler temperatures of the higher altitude rainforests of far north Queensland. But James Cook University‘s Professor Stephen Williams is concerned it has not been seen for three years, unlike the darker coloured members of the species who live at lower altitudes.

Professor Williams, who is the director of the university’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, fears it may have fallen victim to climate change.

If so, it would be the first Australian mammal to become a casualty. There are already fears some frogs and insects have gone.

Professor Williams says the white lemuroid possum has not been seen since the area experienced a temperature rise of more than 0.5 of a degree.

“We’ve already had in Australia, I think, it’s between 0.6 and 0.8 of a degree of increase in average temperature,” he said.

“We do have local temperature data but, as I said, it’s not really that average increase that’s important, it’s the increase in the record temperatures.

Professor Williams says despite an intensive search of several different areas, he failed to find a single possum.

“It was quite depressing going back on the last field trip a couple of weeks ago, going back night after night thinking OK, we’ll find one tonight, but no we still didn’t find any,” he said.

“We tried several different areas. We did quite an intense effort without finding a single individual.”

But Professor Williams says he is still “a way off” from proving the animal has become extinct.

“I guess that’s the danger in talking to the media, because my original comments essentially were that we were concerned. We had made no claim that it had gone extinct,” he said.

“It is sort of irrelevant because it’s just as serious if it hasn’t gone extinct.

“The fact that it has declined to such a degree that we can’t find one suggests a very serious impact regardless of whether it’s actually completely gone extinct.”

Professor Williams says the situation with the white lemuroid possum is a “sign of things to come”.

“It means that all of these much more serious predictions that we’ve been making could come to pass over the next couple of decades,” he said.

“So the original predictions were that if we saw three or four degrees of warming we’re looking at more than 50 per cent extinction of all species in the region. That’s something that’s hardly worth contemplating.”

See also here.

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4 thoughts on “Australian white lemuroid possum, climate change victim?


    CLIMATE ALERT! Italy and Poland Must Stop Playing Politics
    with Global Climate’s Future

    By Ecological Internet’s Climate Ark,
    December 4, 2008

    Their unwillingness at climate talks to bear the costs of
    reducing carbon, and ending their addiction to coal, will
    destroy the atmosphere, biosphere and all our futures


    Some 11,000 climate delegates are meeting in Poland’s western
    city of Poznan, seeking agreement upon new post-Kyoto climate
    goals, to be finalized in Copenhagen by the end of next year.
    Simultaneously, the European Union summit is attempting to
    reach consensus upon the so-called ’20-20-20′ proposals, which
    by 2020 seek a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas (higher if
    others agree), a 20 percent cut in energy consumed and 20
    percent use of renewable energy. Sadly, Italian Prime Minister
    Silvio Berlusconi and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk are
    actively seeking to weaken these modest and realistic medium-
    term goals, which can be built upon, on narrow economic self-
    interests. Without a deal at the Brussels summit, the European
    Union is unlikely to reach consensus prior to the Copenhagen
    conference. Italy and Poland must be called upon to end their
    parochial climate change obstructionism — putting the
    interests of global citizenry and an operable biosphere, above
    continued cheap coal based electricity that is killing us all.




  2. Evo Morales on addressing climate change: `Save the planet from

    By Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia
    November 28, 2008 — Sisters and brothers, today our Mother Earth is
    ill. From the beginning of the 21st century we have lived the hottest
    years of the last thousand years. Global warming is generating abrupt
    changes in the weather: the retreat of glaciers and the decrease of the
    polar ice caps; the increase of the sea level and the flooding of
    coastal areas, where approximately 60% of the world population live; the
    increase in the processes of desertification and the decrease of fresh
    water sources; a higher frequency in natural disasters that the
    communities of the earth suffer[1]; the extinction of animal and plant
    species; and the spread of diseases in areas that before were free from
    those diseases. Everything began with the industrial revolution in 1750,
    which gave birth to the capitalist system. In two and a half centuries,
    the so called “developed” countries have consumed a large part of the
    fossil fuels created over five million centuries.

    * Read more


  3. ARTH MEANDERS 2.0**

    Light REDD: The Looming Tragedy of Carbon Markets Paying to
    Destroy Ancient Forests

    Using carbon funds, the world’s governments are poised to
    subsidize ancient forest logging, claiming it benefits the
    Earth’s climate. REDD’s potential support of “low impact”
    logging of ancient forests, and conversion of natural forests
    to tree farms, fails the climate, biodiversity and biosphere.

    By Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet
    December 13, 2008
    From Earth’s Newsdesk,

    Plans to pay for rainforest protection using funds from carbon
    markets progressed during this week’s UN climate talks. I have
    long promoted the deceptively simple idea of paying to keep
    rainforests standing, yet am far from jubilant with the
    results. It appears first time, industrial logging of ancient
    forests — through so-called low-impact and certified logging,
    and the conversion of these and other natural forests to
    plantations — is falsely considered as having carbon
    benefits, and will be paid for with our tax dollars and carbon

    The concept of paying for rainforest protection with carbon
    money has become known as avoided deforestation, or
    alternatively, as REDD for “Reducing Emissions from
    Deforestation and Degradation”. Like many promising concepts
    before it (i.e. “sustainable development” and “certified
    forestry”), REDD is in danger of becoming empty jargon meant
    to legitimate continued environmentally destructive

    Worldwide, an area of forest greater than the size of Greece
    is deforested every year, and much larger areas are
    continually ecologically diminished, contributing about a
    fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions causing abrupt
    and potentially run-away climate change. Given the biosphere,
    atmosphere and most species depend upon these forests; the
    basic idea of paying for protection of rainforests is a sound
    one. But like so many good eco-ideas before it, the devil is
    in the details.

    Most generally, the concern is whether further commoditizing
    ecosystems does in fact lead to their protection. As
    capitalism verges upon collapse because of its dependence upon
    unsustainable growth as the measure of well-being, it is
    difficult to trust the world’s ancient forest, global
    ecosystem engines, to yet another market. To date the carbon
    market has failed miserably to reduce emissions, and its
    primary impact has been to enrich the polluting elite. What
    will make avoided deforestation different?

    There is much vagueness regarding what specific sorts of
    activities REDD will fund. Terms like preservation,
    protection, conservation, sustainability and low impact are
    used imprecisely and interchangeably when in fact they are
    quite different. Efforts to end old growth logging, aid in
    natural forest regeneration and improve their management, and
    promote socially acceptable plantations of mixed native
    species are certainly welcome.

    Yet it is clear that REDD, as envisioned under United Nations’
    climate activities, will also subsidize first time industrial
    logging of primary and old growth forests, and why not?
    Virtually everyone else tasked with global environmental
    stewardship — from stylish Greenpeace, to ultra-establishment
    World Bank, to second tier posers like Rainforest Action
    Network — support the myth of certified ancient forest
    logging. They and others fail to see that maintaining and
    restoring large, relatively INTACT terrestrial ecosystems is
    key to solving both the climate and biodiversity crises, and
    is ultimately the only long-term foundation for global
    ecological sustainability.

    REDD as it now stands further greenwashs the notion that
    logging the world’s last ancient forest ecosystems, and
    converting these and other natural forests to tree farms,
    benefits the climate. This is in direct contradiction to the
    best current science. We are learning primary forest
    ecosystems, including soils, continue removing carbon
    indefinitely. And their continued ability to both hold
    existing, and remove new, carbon is majorly and permanently
    reduced when “managed” for the first time.

    The ecological rigorousness of the REDD concept is being
    negotiated away in order to get industry and government
    onboard. To appease those responsible for the very burning and
    cutting destroying ecosystems, while legitimizing their right
    to continue doing so in a slightly better fashion, REDD is at
    risk of becoming meaningless. The promise of logging their
    forests and having carbon payments too, largely motivates
    government and industry involvement with REDD.

    REDD buys into the pernicious myth that low-impact, certified,
    sustainable, ecosystem based, socially responsible, pixie-
    magic-dust methods exist to acceptably log a sixty million
    year old sacred and ecologically precious ancient forest. The
    world’s remaining primeval forests are ecologically and
    evolutionarily perfect, and there is no industrial management
    needed or possible that does not release huge amounts of
    carbon initially, while reducing long-term carbon storage
    potential. Nor can any sort of industrial scaled logging avert
    dramatic destruction forever of ancient forests’ structure,
    composition and function.

    Because plantations are widely mistaken as forests, REDD will
    lead to replacement of carbon rich forests by monoculture tree
    plantations. Much carbon is lost immediately, and future
    carbon storage potential is forever diminished. While planted
    trees remove carbon, the carbon stored is not going to persist
    for millennia like in ancient forest ecosystems. Fast growing
    monocultures to make paper may be rotting in a land fill
    within a year. Further, industrial tree plantations are
    notorious for their toxic waste, social disruption and soil

    An ecologically sufficient gold standard for avoided
    deforestation looks like this. In regards to primary and old
    growth forests, a maximally effective program would fund only
    strict preservation in order to optimally protect carbon and
    biodiversity stores in the long-term; and only with local
    support, their continued traditional uses and possibly limited
    small-scale, community-based eco-forestry development. The
    best way to remove new carbon is to assist secondary forests
    to regenerate old-growth characteristics, while expanding and
    connecting fragmented primary forest landscapes through
    ecological restoration. There must be no incentives to
    promote, or tolerance of, replacing natural forests with
    monocultural tree farms. Demand for forest products can be met
    from rigorously ecologically certified native, non-toxic tree
    plantations and delicate management of maturing secondary

    There are many other important and troublesome issues
    regarding REDD that must be resolved for it to be a force for
    good. REDD allows the rich world to buy their way out of
    reducing their own carbon emissions reduction. The well-off
    must not be allowed to use REDD to avoid reducing their own
    fossil fuel emission reductions. REDD mainly benefits the
    countries and interests that have caused most of the world’s
    deforestation, and it is imperative local forest dwellers
    yield most of the benefits. Further, REDD is likely to result
    in land grabs and other violations of indigenous rights.
    Strict prohibitions upon REDD financing industrial ancient
    forest logging and plantations upon recently deforested lands,
    coupled with getting payments to willing local participants,
    will alleviate most concerns.

    If carbon markets expand to include forests and pay for
    anything less than full protection of ancient forests, carbon
    markets will be revealed as a fraudulent Ponzi scheme whose
    primary purpose is to enrich the elite, not to reduce
    emissions or ensure a habitable biosphere. Yes, I want carbon
    markets and REDD to work. But not at the expense of Earth’s
    last intact ecosystem engines, not if carbon markets abet
    continued emission growth and forest loss, not if carbon
    accounting trickery pays for continued ecocide, not if land is
    stolen from local peoples, and not if it slows down
    sufficient, real progress to END the biodiversity and climate

    Carbon markets themselves are underperforming. There is no
    indication they will become global and result in absolute
    emission reductions in time to avert global ecosystem
    collapse. The primary beneficiary thus far has been polluting
    industries which have reaped windfall profits after being
    given carbon credits for free. Carbon markets will have
    completed their descent into irrelevancy and actual harm to
    the climate and biosphere if these funds pay to log ancient
    rainforests. If policy-makers get it wrong and grant carbon
    funding to anything less than full protection for ancient
    forests, carbon markets will have proven their failure.

    It just seems a little much, indeed a blind leap of faith, to
    suggest that the present economic system, which has brought
    the Earth to the edge of ruin by liquidating the Earth’s life-
    giving ecosystems over the last few hundred years, and is now
    collapsing, is capable of saving terrestrial ecosystems and
    the atmosphere. If history teaches us anything, it is
    assigning an economic value to shared natural resources, in a
    world of exponential growth in population and consumption,
    assures their over-use. Unless these concerns with the
    functioning of carbon markets, and how they relate to primary
    and old-growth forests in particular are addressed, the REDD
    concept is unworthy of support.

    ** Due to popular demand, Earth Meanders is back as a project
    of Ecological Internet! More later on our plans, but needless
    to say, the urge to meander became too great to resist.



  4. ‘Extinct’ brown lemuroid ringtail possum back from the dead

    Article from: AAP

    By Evan Schwarten

    March 27, 2009 07:11pm

    A POSSUM population believed to have been wiped out by climate change is in fact clinging to survival, scientists say.
    Researchers say they have discovered three living brown lemuroid ringtail possums in the Daintree National Park, on Cape York, although the Daintree possums were believed to have been killed off during a heat wave in 2005.

    No white lemuroid possums – which once accounted for 40 per cent of the lemuroid possum population in the area – have been located so far.

    But Associate Professor Steve Williams of James Cook University said there was no reason to believe they wouldn’t have survived alongside their brown relatives.

    “I don’t think there is any reason to believe the white ones are harder hit than the brown ones,” he said.

    Lemuroid ringtail possums are found in just two locations, at the Carbine Tablelands in the Daintree and in the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns, though white lemuroids are extremely rare in the latter location.

    Prof Williams said the Daintree possums had not been spotted since an extended heatwave in 2005, leading to the belief that they had been pushed to extinction by climate change.

    He said the species could not cope with extended periods of temperatures over 27 degrees.

    “Over the last 50 years, the number of days where you get that temperature has been steadily increasing, to the point that in 2005 there were 27 consecutive days where the temperature went above that threshold,” he said.

    “That seems to have really knocked them down.”

    Prof Williams said the species still hadn’t been found in locations where they had been common and his research team would try to identify why they had survived in the current location.

    He said the possums remained extremely vulnerable and another heatwave could wipe them out.

    “I don’t think they are out of danger in any shape or form. It is very clear that these heatwaves are steadily increasing,” he said.


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