Threats to Daintree Lowland Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is the heart and soul of Australia’s Wet Tropics. However, the World Heritage Area does not extend to all of the Daintree with much of the coastal lowland tropical rainforest from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation remaining unprotected.
With the road to Cape Tribulation now bituminised, settlement of privately-owned allotments within the Daintree is escalating, resulting in the ongoing loss of habitat and forest connectivity. Between five to ten allotments are developed for rural residential housing every year.
With development comes a host of other threats which impact the unique biodiversity values of the Daintree.
Rural residential development: Clearing of the rainforest for residential development remains the greatest threat to the Daintree Lowland Rainforest leading to fragmentation, displacement of wildlife, and susceptibility to invasive weeds all of which threaten the biodiversity values which make the Daintree Rainforest so unique.
Fragmentation: Habitat fragmentation caused by rural residential development and clearing for farming makes it difficult for plants and animals to move from one rainforest patch to another. It can also limit breeding populations and make species more vulnerable to extinction, particularly in small, isolated pockets.
Climate change: Climate change is becoming a major concern to the biodiversity of the Daintree Rainforest. Global warming could decrease the habitat of many endemic vertebrate species which live in the cooler upland and montane rainforests, leaving only isolated pockets of rainforest for them to live in. It is predicted that seven frog species, five mammal species, three bird species, and three skink species would lose over half their present habitat with only a 1-degree temperature increase. The cool, wet mountaintop rainforest habitats are at most risk, thus the species in those habitats (the frogs, skinks, and several possums, as examples) might be the first to lose much of their habitat should this increase occur.
Weeds: Clearing of rainforest habitat for residential development has lead to an alarming increase in the number of known weed species in the Daintree. Weeds disrupt ecosystems, compete with and replace native plants, reduce food and shelter for native species, change fire regimes and create soil erosion.
Feral animals: Feral animals impact on the values of the Daintree Rainforest through predation on native species, competition for food and habitat, degradation of habitat, soil erosion, disease and weed transmission, and changes in fire regimes.
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