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article imageAnthropogenic global warming causes first mammal extinction

By Karen Graham     Jun 14, 2016 in Environment
Human-caused global warming appears to have caused the only mammal species endemic to the Great Barrier Reef to become extinct. We can say goodbye to the Bramble Cay melomys.
The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) is also known as the Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat. It was Australia's most isolated mammal, with a small population on Bramble Cay, a vegetated coral cay of 340 by 150 meters (1,120 ft × 490 ft) in size.
The extinction of this little mammal will go down in the history books as being the first mammal to disappear because of climate change, and more specifically, it will be the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be caused by anthropogenic global warming, reports Gizmodo.
Bramble Cay in 2008.
Bramble Cay in 2008.
Queensland EPA
The cay rises up out of the sea about three meters (10 feet) but is covered in strand-line vegetation where the little mammals built burrows. When the cay was first discovered by Europeans in the early 1800s, the melomys population was seen to be in the high numbers. Sailors reported shooting the "large rats" with bows and arrows.
In the latest survey report published this month, researchers from Queensland’s Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Queensland state the "root-cause" of the disappearance of the melomys "points to human-induced climate change."
The scientists go on to say that the cay's vulnerability to rising seas and storm surge over the past decade, along with an increase in extreme weather events has "caused dramatic habitat loss and perhaps direct mortality of some individual melomys."
The melomys were last seen in 2009, reports CBC News, and after a rather extensive search in 2014, a report recommended their status be changed from "endangered" to "extinct." At that time, scientists spent six days laying 150 traps along with setting up cameras, trying to find the little guys. They also took extensive measurements of the island and vegetation lines.
Bramble Cay today. The Weather service has a monitoring station on the cay.
Bramble Cay today. The Weather service has a monitoring station on the cay.
Australian Weather Service
What the researchers discovered is just plain disheartening. The cay had decreased in size from 4.0 hectares (10 acres) in 1998 to 2.5 hectares (6.1 acres) in 2014. Additionally, the melomys lost 97 percent of their habitat in just 10 years. Vegetation cover had declined from 2.2 hectares (5.4 acres) in 2004 to just 0.065 hectares (0.16 acres) in 2014.
“For low-lying islands like Bramble Cay, the destructive effects of extreme water levels resulting from severe meteorological events are compounded by the impacts from anthropogenic climate change-driven sea-level rise,” the authors said in their report. The researchers add, "Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change."
More about anthropogenic global warming, first mammal extinction, Rising sea levels, Bramble Cay melomys, Great barrier reef
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