Bellwether Species May Show Signs of Climate Change

Scientists believe these plants are the “canaries in the coal mine.”

Twelve years ago, in the thick of the Lamington National Park, a project was developed by 50 scientists from all over the globe. The project involved studying various native species at different altitudes.

The purpose, according to Professor Roger Kitching from Griffith University Emeritus was to see whether species at particular altitudes will move to cooler ground as the temperatures rise.

"We have built a tool which says 'look, here's 20 species or 30 species ... and these are the ones to watch for, these are the ones that will be the canaries in the coal mine, the ones that will change most precisely."

The species studied in the national park includes different types of moths and insects. The areas previously studied are being revisited by scientists to better monitor the changes as temperatures warm and compare results.

“If we go back and resample in 20 years time — perhaps sooner but in the future — then those are the ones we should look at to see if they have shifted up to the 700-metre sites or the 1,100-metre sites in a response to a warming or changing the climate."

Scientists have broadened the study to include ranges in New South Wales, Mount Lewis near Cairns and Eungella.

The Australian studies are part of a worldwide study, monitoring species and how they are reacting to climate change. Kitching explains that this surveying and monitoring of national parks is important:

"We rely on plants, particularly forests, to do that and we rely on healthy seas to do that because there is a lot of photosynthesis plant feeding going on"

So it's all pretty important to know how these forests work.

Header: Buchanan's Fort, Lamington National Park, QLD, Flikr, Jussarian

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