Australia and Pacific becoming 'extinction hotspots' for animals and plants

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London, July 29 (ANI): A new study has found that the Earth is in the throes of its "sixth great extinction event" and Australia and the Pacific are becoming the worst regions for the destruction of animals and plants.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, said that since records began, Australian agriculture had changed or destroyed half the woodlands and forests of the country.

Logging has degraded more than two-thirds of the remaining forest.

Land clearing and overlogging of forests have been highlighted as the greatest threats to land-based flora and fauna in the Oceania region, according to a review of 24,000 scientific papers.

Throughout Oceania more than 1200 bird species have become extinct and climate change is threatening to worsen the crisis, the study warns.

"Our region has the notorious distinction of having possibly the worst extinction record on Earth," said Richard Kingsford, professor of environmental science at the University of NSW and one of the 14 authors of the study.

"This is predicted to continue without serious changes to the way we conserve our environment," he said, noting that half of Australia's mammal extinctions were directly or indirectly caused by humans.

Ecosystems in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia need urgent and effective conservation policies, or the region's already poor record on extinctions will worsen significantly, the study determined.

The report identifies six causes driving species to extinction, almost all linked in some way to human activity.

It pinpoints destruction and degradation of ecosystems as the main threat, with loss of habitats being linked to 80 per cent of threatened species.

Among the animals most at risk is in Australia is the white lemuroid possum, which lives at high altitudes in Queensland's tropical northern rainforest, and earlier this year was identified as being in extreme decline.

The Tasmanian Devil is also on the brink of extinction as a result of a deadly facial tumour disease that has reduced wild populations by 60 per cent.

In the Pacific, invasive animals and plants have destroyed many native species.

The Guam Micronesian kingfisher is thought to be extinct in the wild following the introduction of the brown tree snake.

The report sets out several recommendations to slow the decline by introducing laws to limit land clearing, logging and mining; restricting deliberate introduction of invasive species; reducing carbon emissions and pollution; and limiting bottom trawling in the oceans. (ANI)

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