Queensland’s wet tropics see 25% rise in threatened species in three years as climate change bites

The number of listed threatened species in Australia’s world heritage northern rainforests has increased by 25% since 2020, as ecologists say they are now clearly observing the long-predicted impacts of global heating.

The management and conservation authority for the Unesco-listed Queensland wet tropics this week handed its latest environmental report to the state government, containing “sombre but pragmatic” warnings about the declining health of some species, including the ringtail possum, that were believed robust when the area was given international protection in 1988.

“The insidious and damaging threat posed by invasive species and diseases, and the impacts of climate change, present real danger to the continuing integrity of the area’s biodiversity,” the report says.

Stephen Williams, a rainforest ecologist and a director of the Wet Tropics Management Authority, says his analysis showed there had been a 25% increase to the number of listed threatened vertebrate species in the area in the past three years.

“It’s primarily climate … it’s almost entirely climate,” Williams said.