Take your pick: Lose half of kangaroos, or lose nearly all of them.
That's shaping up as the choice, according to a new study published in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, which predicts that at 2-degree (C) rise in temperature will eliminate 48% of kangaroo habitat, while a 6-degree increase would leave just 4% of the iconic hopper's range intact. By the end of the century, a two-to-six degree temperature increase is within the range expected under various climate change scenarios, possibly even if strong action is taken to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
The biggest effect will be seen in Northern Australia, where increased drought will dry up watering holes and pasture that the animals require.
And of the four species studied, the antilopine wallaroo is most at risk. Adapted to living in wet, tropical conditions, it could lose nearly 90% of its habitat with a 2-degree increase in temperature, and go extinct with a 6-degree rise.
"Our study provides evidence that climate change has the capacity to cause large-scale range contractions, and the possible extinction of one macropodid (kangaroo) species in northern Australia," write study authors Euan G. Ritchie and Elizabeth E. Bolitho of James Cook University in Australia.
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