Researchers at James Cook University suggest an increase in average temperature of only two degrees Celsius could have a devastating effect on Australia's kangaroos.
"Our study provides evidence that climate change has the capacity to cause large-scale range contractions, and the possible extinction of one macropodid (kangaroo) species in northern Australia," researchers Euan Ritchie and Elizabeth Bolitho said.
The scientists said they used computer modeling and data from three years of field observations to predict how expected temperature changes during the next half-century might affect kangaroos.
They found a temperature increase as small as a half-degree Celsius might significantly shrink kangaroos' geographic ranges and an increase of just two degrees might shrink the ranges by as much as 48 percent. A six-degree increase, they said, could reduce range sizes by 96 percent.
Ritchie said generally accepted climate models predict temperatures in northern Australia to be between 0.4 and 2 degrees warmer by 2030, and between 2 and 6 degrees warmer by 2070.
The research is reported in the December issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.