THE population of a subspecies of brushtail possumsin the South West willcontinue to decline due toclimate change and habitat loss,according to an Edith Cowan University Centre for Ecosystem Managementstudy.
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Endemic to the South West of Australia, the koomal possumhas undergone a significant reduction in distribution due to its vulnerability to habitat fragmentation, introduced predators and tree/shrub dieback.

The ECU research, which used species distribution models, radio tracking and trapping to collate data,foundareas heavily infested with dieback were not occupied by koomal possums and thatkoomal presence was linked to the extent of suitable vegetation available.

Lead researcher Dr Shaun Molloy saidthe main geographic areawhere the possums live wasshifting and contractingwith climate change, which was having a significant impact on the species.

“Koomal have pretty much disappeared from the Wheatbelt and most of the inland part of their range, largely because of clearing and introduced predators,” he said.

“They are still persisting well in much of the Jarrah forest and in coastal areas because there is still good tree canopy cover.”

However, Dr Molloy saidthis cover wasdeclining, and inthe next 10 years the possums wouldcontinue topersist but in fewer and fewer areas.

“Climate change combined with other factors such as inappropriate fire regime, land clearing, man-made obstacles to movement such as roads and suburbs, weeds, pathogens such as dieback and introduced predators such as foxes and feral cats,all combine to have a potentially devastating impact on our native plants and animals,” he said.

“We all have to understand what a real and serious threat climate change is and how it combines with other impacts to threaten our biodiversity.

“I believe that our greatest problem is that we, as a society do not take the time to learn about our unique and wonderful plants and animals.I am convinced that if we knew more about them we would learn to care enough to make room for them in our future.”

Dr Molloy said responsible pet ownership, establishing native plants andprotecting nativebushland were great ways to start helping the koomal and other animal populations survive.

The locations in which koomal possums are located are on the decline due to their vulnerability to habitat fragmentation, introduced predators and tree dieback.

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