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Australia’s biodiversity threatened by climate change

Marking Australia’s National Threatened Species Day today, WWF-Australia warns that climate change may pose threats to species loss, including the koala and kanagaroo.

Sydney, Australia - Marking Australia’s National Threatened Species Day today, WWF-Australia warns that climate change may pose one of the biggest threats to species loss, including some of the country’s most iconic inhabitants. 
“Australia is at risk by even small changes in temperature,” said Dr Nicola Markus, WWF-Australia's Species and Community Programme manager. “A 0.7 Celsius temperature rise has had a big impact on the severity of our worst drought on record.” 
“The only way to really tackle the problem of climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050,” she added. “Unless deep cuts are made to emissions, the temperature will rise and Australia will feel the brunt of more droughts, freak storms and bushfires.” 
Australia’s biodiversity will also be adversely affected by global warming. 
Within 20 years many species of Australia’s famous eucaplypts will have their entire present day population exposed to temperature and rainfalls under which no individual trees currently exist. This will be very bad news for species such as the koala, as well as other species. 
Currently, there are 1,695 plants and animals facing the threat of extinction in Australia. According to an Australian government report from the Biodiversity Advisory Committee there is evidence of an emerging threat to the mountain pygmy possum, the numbat, and the tree kangaroo. 
“WWF estimates that up to 20% of Australia’s half million or so plants and animals could be threatened with extinction,” said Dr Ray Nias, WWF-Australia’s Director of Conservation. “We must see a quantum leap in our nation’s efforts to deal with key threats such as declining water quality and wetland health, weeds and pest animals, land-clearing, and climate change.” 
Many species have been listed under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but it is clear that the national list is not comprehensive and the total number of threatened species in Australia is likely to be much higher and heading in the way of the now extinct Tasmanian tiger in the Australian island-state of Tasmania. 
In addition to 7 September marking Australia’s National Threatened Species Day, it also marks the 68th anniversary of the death of the last Tasmanian tiger in captivity. 
For further information:
Virginia Dew, Press Office
WWF- Australia
Tel: +61-2-8202-1290
E-Mail: vdew@wwf.org.au