island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-invasive-species-new-zealand-tuatara-feat

Climate Change Threatens New Zealand Wildlife

New Zealand’s already threatened wildlife is forced to adapt to a changing climate to survive.

New Zealand has been a safe-haven for its unique species, a home without mammalian predators. That is until the 1880’s when ships on the brought predators that were well suited for a variety of habitats. Since their introductions invasive predators including rats and stoats have decimated native species populations and their habitat, spurring a biodiversity crisis that New Zealand.

The unique wildlife thrived on a landmass that was essentially a life-raft separated from predators such as rats and stoats for 80 million years.”

Erica Wilkinson, The Guardian

The arrival of invasive species commenced a centuries long battle between the invasive predators and the native species, resulting in considerable habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. In addition to this, the progressively extreme conditions climate change produces means New Zealand’s wildlife is more vulnerable then ever. Sea levels are on the rise, storm surges and extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent, and arid regions are predicted to get even drier.

island-conservation-invasive-species-preventing-extinctions-New-Zealand-tutara
A male Tutara. Photo credit: KeresH

The cumulative effect of invasive predators, habitat loss, and climate change places these vulnerable species in a position where they must adapt quickly or face extinction. Unfortunately, time is not on their side. Already scientists are seeing the impacts these threats are having for native wildlife.

New Zealand’s iconic kiwi is being pushed out of its native habitat in search of food as temperatures rise causing forests floors harden, and reducing food availability. The native long-tailed bat historically hibernates for most of winter while food resources are scarce but with warming winter conditions they may wake through the winter but be unable to find food. The Tuatara, an endemic reptile, like many reptile species has temperature dependent sex determination. Soil that is warmed by only one degree produces males. As the climate warms this could irreversibly skew the population to detrimental levels. As the climate continues to change, adaptation is necessary for many of New Zealand’s endemic populations to survive.

island-conservation-invasive-species-preventing-extinctions-little-spotted-kiwi
Little Spotted Kiwi foraging in New Zealand. Photo Credit: Judi Lapsley Miller 

The cumulative impacts of these changes is already impacting native wildlife, but humans have the ability to help! Now more then ever it is important to protect wildlife by supporting restoration and conservation projects. Protecting wildlife now can make populations more resilient in the face of these changes, giving hope for New Zealand’s wildlife and species around the world as we move towards an uncertain climate future.

Source: The Guardian
Feature Image: New Zealand’s endemic Tuatara. Credit: Bernard Spragg

About Isabelle Everhart

Isabelle Everhart is recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz, with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and A.A. in Liberal Arts from Santa Barbara City College. In her studies she found a passion for sustainability, conservation, and marine-related species. Her free time includes surfing, hiking, and exploring new places. She is excited to intern for the Island Conservation Communications team, to help spread scientific knowledge and an urgency for conservation.

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