September 25, 2009

New Species In Mekong Threatened By Climate Change

Researchers reported the discovery of 163 new species in the Greater Mekong region last year, and now they are at risk of becoming extinct due to climate change, according to conservation group WWF.

World Wildlife Fund reported Friday that scientists found 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, two mammals and one bird species in the Mekong River region of Asia last year.

The new creatures include a leopard gecko with an "other world" appearance, a bird that prefers to walk rather than fly, and a bird eating fanged frog.

"After millennia in hiding these species are now finally in the spotlight, and there are clearly more waiting to be discovered," said Stuart Chapman, director of the WWF Greater Mekong Program.

But the report warns that these new species are threatened by the impacts of climate change, citing climate models that suggest continued warming increased variability and more frequent and damaging extreme climate events.

The most recent International Panel on Climate Change data shows that rising seas and saltwater intrusion will result in major coastal impacts especially in the Mekong River delta.

"Some species will be able to adapt to climate change, many will not, potentially resulting in massive extinctions," said Chapman.

"Rare, endangered and endemic species like those newly discovered are especially vulnerable because climate change will further shrink their already restricted habitats," he said.

"The treasures of nature are in trouble if governments fail to agree a fair, ambitious and binding treaty that will prevent runaway climate change," said Kathrin Gutmann, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the WWF Global Climate Initiative.

Image © Lee Grismer / WWF Greater Mekong


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