What we’re reading: Vanishing rodents, climate ‘benefits’

A landscape shot of Kulusuk, a small village in Greenland with about 360 inhabitants. (© Ville Miettinen/Flickr Creative Commons)

A landscape shot of Kulusuk, a small village in Greenland with about 360 inhabitants. (© Ville Miettinen/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: Climate change made a lot of news in the past week. Here are a few notable stories that you may have missed.

  1. ‘Climate corridors’ could save wildlife

The story: The great wide open spaces of the western United States offer wildlife plenty of room to roam. The east, however, is a different story: The highly fragmented landscapes of the eastern U.S. pose a major obstacle for species fleeing for new habitats if climate change pushes temperatures beyond habitable levels, Popular Science reported.

The answer, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the creation of “wildlife corridors” throughout the east that preserve or restore natural areas and which build bridges over (or tunnels under) busy roads.

What’s next: Habitat corridors are not a new idea — many already exist around the world, including highway overpasses in British Columbia and “bee highways” in Norway. Could there be a critter causeway coming to a suburb near you?

Read more here.

  1. First mammal species goes extinct due to climate change

The story: No wildlife corridor was available for the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a small rodent native to a single island off the coast of Australia. Scientists say that the rodent’s demise was likely due to climate change. As National Geographic reported:

The rats were first seen by Europeans on the island in 1845, and there were several hundred there as of 1978. But since 1998, the part of the island that sits above high tide has shrunk from 9.8 acres to 6.2 acres (4 hectares to 2.5 hectares). That means the island’s vegetation has been shrinking, and the rodents have lost about 97 percent of their habitat.

What’s next: With sea levels rising faster and high tides growing higher, species native to low-lying areas and islands sadly face a future not unlike the Bramble Cay melomys.

Read more here.


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  1. At ground zero of warming, Greenland seeks to unlock frozen assets

The story: The north Atlantic island, thawing at a frightful pace, will see economic advantages from rising temperatures — at least in the short term, Reuters reported. Longer growing seasons enable more farming; meltwater from glacial ice is boosting hydropower; and mackerel are appearing off Greenland’s shores due to changes in ocean currents — all thanks to climate change.

Climate change will also enable more mining. According to Reuters:

Climate change could also boost the island’s hopes to develop minerals ranging from rare earths to oil and gas, even though low prices have put most plans on hold. Melting snow and ice makes prospecting less complicated and improves access to sites.

What’s next: The future is not all rosy, though. Melting threatens the livelihoods of indigenous hunters in the north who rely on ice to hunt seals. Infrastructure such as buildings and airports that rest on fragile permafrost are at risk. And the effects — and duration — of any benefits from climate change are unreliable. As one fisherman told Reuters: “Three weeks ago I went out fishing and got a lot of cod. Yesterday I went fishing again but I didn’t get even one.

Read more here.

Bruno Vander Velde is Conservation International’s editorial director.

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