SYDNEY-One of Australia’s major marsupial species may not be able to survive the rising temperatures of this century, reflecting the increasing vulnerability of wildlife to climate change, according to latest research. The green ringtail possums, found in northern Australia, can prevent dehydration when exposed to temperatures above 30 C by storing water in their bodies instead of losing it through evaporative cooling but the heat becomes a problem when exposure is over five hours for at least four consecutive days, according to Western Sydney University in a statement about its study on Wednesday. The research, which included scientists from James Cook University in thermally mapping the vulnerability of species to future changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, showed that the area where maximum temperatures are survivable for the tree-dwelling, leaf-eating species could shrink by over 85 percent this century. “Our biodiversity is increasingly threatened by extreme heat events, but it has proven difficult to predict the responses of wildlife to these events,” said the university’s Dr. Justin Welbergen.

The researchers showed that under a more severe, business-as-usual scenario, the area where maximum temperatures are currently survivable for the green ringtail possum would be reduced by more than 6,000 sq- km by 2085, leaving most of the area uninhabitable for the species and posing a severe threat to its long-term survival.

The findings, reported in scientific journal Biology Letters, can also help with effective wildlife conservation management, according to the team.

“Our methods allow us to map the areas that will remain thermally suitable for green ringtail possums in the future, and help ensure that conservation and habitat restoration efforts are targeted to the most important locations in the landscape,” said Western Sydney University’s Dr. Jessica Meade.

“Our methods can be applied anywhere where detailed information on both thermal tolerances of animals and daily weather are available, and as such can inform the efficient deployment of limited conservation resources,” she said.