March 8, 2006

Global warming threatens New Guinea paradise-report

OSLO (Reuters) - Exotic species in a little-known "Garden
of Eden" in the mountains of New Guinea island are under threat
from global warming, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

"A paradise world of undiscovered species and tropical
glaciers in the mountains of New Guinea is disappearing faster
than it can be explored," the British-based magazine said.

It quoted Michael Prentice, a climatologist at Plymouth
State University, New Hampshire, as saying that temperatures in
the highlands of the tropical island were rising far faster
than previously thought.

Climate records compiled since the 1970s by mission
stations, coffee plantations and mining companies "show a real
step change, with warming of 0.3C (0.5F) every decade," he

That rate would make it among the fastest in the world.
Scientists say global temperatures rose about 0.6C in the
entire 20th century. It was unclear why the rate should be so
fast on the island, shared by Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Prentice said glaciers around the 5,030-meter (16,500-ft)
Mount Jaya, the island's highest peak, had been in retreat for
a century and estimated that they ended about 300 meters higher
than when last fully mapped in the 1970s.

Last month, a group of international scientists led by
Conservation International said they had found dozens of new
species of birds, butterflies, frogs and plants in the Foja
mountains in the west of the island.

Among other rare creatures were a tree kangaroo and an
egg-laying echidna.

Researchers from London's Royal Botanic Gardens Kew said
last week they had found a new genus of palm trees on the

Most scientists say gases from burning fossil fuels in
factories, power plants and autos are warming the planet,
threatening everything from more floods and heatwaves to
droughts and rising sea levels.