Australia’s World Heritage rainforest in North Queensland, known for its high biodiversity values and variety of flora and fauna, is at risk from changes in temperature and rainfall.
Earthwatch Australia has developed a new research project Wildlife of the Cloud Forests and is calling on volunteers to work with scientists to understand the impacts of climate change on the wildlife inhabiting this internationally significant landmark.
Richard Gilmore, Executive Director, Earthwatch Australia says “volunteers are needed to conduct surveys at different altitudes from sea level to 1,400 metres and help spot and sometimes catch birds, reptiles, frogs and mammals.
“It’s a rare opportunity to escape to this beautiful, remote area to observe native animals in their natural environment and make a difference”.
Professor Steve Williams, the Director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change says, “climate change is currently one the greatest threats to Australia’s unique biodiversity and the greatest threat to the World Heritage listed North Queensland rainforest flora and fauna”.
“The situation for the 83 species of vertebrates that are found in the Wet Tropics and nowhere else in the world is bleak, with 50% likely to face extinction over this century”.
The research will be carried out across the two most important biodiversity hotspots for the region, the Central Wet Tropics and the Douglas shire. In the Daintree part of the region, the scenery changes from coral reefs and beaches to lowland lush tropical rainforests, up into mountains covered in cooler upland cloud forests.
As the last remaining part of forest that once dominated half of Australia, many animals found here cannot be found anywhere else in the world including cassowaries, a variety of parrots, pythons, possums, tree kangaroos and primitive looking reptiles.
The vital research will help to prioritise ongoing research and management efforts to determine which species, habitats and ecosystems will be most vulnerable, and what can be done to manage this vulnerability and minimise the impacts.