Climate change will hit koalas hard, group claims

Koalas are highly vulnerable to climate change, a leading conservation group has warned.

The koala has been included in a list of 10 species most at risk from climate change. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) claims that a loss of habitat threatens the animal, while higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air mean there will be less nutritional value in gum leaves, the koala's food.

"The koala faces malnutrition and ultimate starvation as the nutritional quality of eucalytpus leaves declines as CO2 levels increase," the IUCN said.

More CO2 in the air can make plants grow faster. However, fast growing gum leaves contain less protein and more tannin, so koalas have to eat more to survive.

The IUCN says koalas already eat up to 500g of leaves a day and their guts may not be able to hold much more.

Other species on the list include clownfish, emperor penguins, beluga whales, leatherback turtles, ringed seals, and Arctic foxes.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 30 Jul 2014 10:11:24 Processing Time: 642ms