The Bramble Cay melomy, a small brown rat, is now the first mammal to become extinct due to human-induced climate change, CNN reports.
While hundreds of these rodents scurried around Australia in the 1970s, melomys haven’t been seen in about 10 years. They were declared endangered by Queensland in 1992 and by the Commonwealth in 1999. After further investigation, the state officially declared the species extinct in 2016, and the Commonwealth verified this on Monday.
“It's not a decision to take lightly," Geoff Richardson, assistant secretary for environment and energy, told members of the Senate. "When something is listed as extinct it essentially ceases to get any protection."
The rodents resided in Bramble Cay, a small Australian island near the Great Barrier Reef. The extinction is likely caused by ocean inundation from rising sea levels that, destroyed the melomys natural habitat, according to the 2016 report.
We must not allow this to be overlooked. The Bramble Cay melomys is now extinct. It is the first mammal to be declared extinct due to human-caused climate change. An indicator of something much larger to come... unless we change now. pic.twitter.com/NES675JnyQ— Bella Lack 🌱 (@BellaLack) February 20, 2019
Between 2004 and 2014, the number of leafy plants reduced by 97%. These plants provided both food and shelter for the mammals.
"Bramble Cay melomys' extinction is an absolute tragedy," said Senator Janet Rice, who is chairing a Senate inquiry into the country's extinction crisis.
Australia has faced other negative effects of climate change throughout the region. Increased water temperatures have caused choral in the Great Barrier Reef to die-off, affecting the country’s ecosystem.
If rising temperatures continue to increase, almost 8% of all species around the world could become extinct, according to a 2015 study by the University of Connecticut.
“We are living the real effects of climate change right now,” said Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch. “How many more species do we have to lose for the federal government to take action?” she asked.