The Bramble Cay melomys, a species of rodent that lived on an isolated coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef, features in the report as the first known mammal extinction to be directly linked to climate change.
The rodents were first seen by Europeans on the island in 1845 and there were several hundred there in 1978. But in the last two decades, their habitat – the part of the island that sits above high tide – has shrunk due to the rising sea level. They were declared extinct in 2016.
“It will … remain immortalised as a stark reminder that the time to act on climate change is now,” the authors of the report write.
The study draws data from the Zoological Society of London, including statistics on more than 1100 Australian populations, all of which show declines.
The spread of cane toads to the Northern Territory has reduced the size of some freshwater crocodile populations by almost 80 per cent, goannas by up to 97 per cent and the northern quoll by 75 per cent, the report finds.
In West Australia’s Fitzgerald River National Park the rare ground parrot has not been heard calling since 2008.
“We’re facing an extinction crisis and tragically Australia has played a role in this loss,” said Dermot O’Gorman, the head of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Australia.
“A recent review found Australia’s main environment law is ineffective and our current environmental trajectory is unsustainable.”
Last week, the Morrison government used its numbers to pass a bill through the lower house that would give state governments control of major project assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
But it came under fire from Labor and green groups for its omission of national standards that would ensure states did not weaken environmental protections.
The WWF report also offered up some positive examples. Following the creation of a marine protected area at the Ashmore Reef in Western Australia, the number of grey reef sharks increased by more than 360 per cent between 2004 and 2016.
“The bushfires were a wake-up call to Australians. We must seize this moment,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“We can regenerate our country, we can recover species, we can tackle climate change and manage our landscapes with sustainable farming. But it’s going to take a long-term vision.”
Globally, freshwater biodiversity is declining far faster than it is in oceans or forests. Plant extinction risk is comparable to that of mammals and higher than for birds.
Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.