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Climate change endangering the Pacific islands’ endangered species

By Jon Perez

Flying fox, greater monkey-faced bat, banded iguana and saw-tailed gecko: these are among the exotic but critically endangered species that can be found only in the Pacific islands. And like the endangered islands that they inhabit, these species are facing further threats of extinction due to climate change.

A recent study conducted by geomatic engineer Mahyat Shafapour Tehrany and environmental science professor Lalit Kumar identified 150 vulnerable terrestrial vertebrate species throughout the Pacific islands region that are most susceptible to extinction due to the impact of climate change.

The study was based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s database for 23 countries in the Pacific. It was published in the British scientific journal Nature.

Of the 1,779 islands in the region, 237 are home to 38 unique species that are at risk of vanishing due to the shifting weather patterns.

Island nations, being the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, have been at the forefront of campaigns to preserve the environment.

Atolls and islets are scattered around the Pacific with some even uninhabited. They are either coral or volcanic in origin.

Some of these islands are threatened to be wiped out in the future—along with the natural habitat of certain species—due to rising sea waters brought by climate change. Flora and fauna in these islands don’t have the chance to migrate to other islands or nearby areas which are surrounded by a large portion of the Pacific Ocean.

Despite statements of climate change deniers, studies have shown that rising sea waters caused by the melting of polar ice caps have an impact on the flora and fauna of these island nations. Kiribati, for example, bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji to prepare for a possible relocation of its citizens in the event of ocean water gobbling up their island home.

The study identified 674 islands that are home to species that are categorized either as "critically endangered" or "vulnerable." There are 15 islands that are inhabited by six or more species on the list.

Some species that spread across different islands may have higher levels of survivability. For example, the Micronesia saw-tailed gecko can be found on 169 islands, making it less vulnerable to extinction compared to other species that are found only in fewer islands.

Like the saw-tailed gecko, two other species may be at a lower risk of disappearance. The Micronesia forest skink and the Solomons black-banded krait can be found in 125 and 81 islands, respectively.

The Bulmer’s fruit bat is one of those most likely to go extinct. It can be found only on New Guinea island in Papua New Guinea. While it is located on a large island, the area it occupies is less than 10 sq. km.

The study recommended that conservationists and eco-warriors do their share to try saving these species before it's too late.


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