RISING SEA LEVELS driven by climate change are threatening wetlands in Kakadu National Park, a new report from the Climate Council has found.
“Sea levels in northern Australia are currently rising at about twice the global average,” said Climate Councillor and lead report author, Professor Lesley Hughes.
“Much of Kakadu National Park is only half a metre above sea level and intrusion of saltwater into freshwater wetlands, in areas such as the Mary River, is already evident,” she said.
“These precious ecosystems are being transformed before our eyes. We need to take a far bolder approach to conservation to ensure our ecosystems are as resilient as possible to worsening extreme weather,” said Professor Hughes.
In the East Alligator River region, intrusion of saltwater has occurred over the past few decades along several kilometres of tidal creeks, resulting in a loss of more than 60% of Melaleuca-dominated freshwater swamp vegetation.
“Climate change means things will only continue to get worse. By 2060, it is estimated that 60% of the wetlands within Kakadu National Park may be dramatically affected,” said Professor Hughes.
Australia is home to more than a million species of plants and animals, yet our track record on conservation is woeful; climate change is making it even harder to protect our natural ecosystems and unique wildlife.
Australia’s high greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to increasingly severe changes in the climate system, which means further deterioration of our environment is inevitable.
Australia holds the record for the first mammalian extinction due to climate change.
Australia not only has the dubious honour of being the continent with one of the highest rates of species extinctions, we now hold the first record of a mammalian extinction due to climate change.
The Bramble Cay melomys was a native rodent found on an island in the Torres Strait.
Surveys have revealed the island has been repeatedly inundated by storms, worsened by rising sea levels. The last native animal simply drowned.
“No active steps were taken to protect the Bramble Cay melomys and earlier this year the Environment Minister finally acknowledged – via a media release – that it had become extinct,” said Chief Climate Councillor Professor Tim Flannery.
“The Federal Government is standing by while Australia’s unique ecosystems and wildlife are decimated. We must drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to clean and affordable renewable energy and storage technologies,” said Professor Flannery.