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Killer climate: tens of thousands of flying foxes dead in a day

This summer we have seen one of the most dramatic animal die-offs ever recorded in Australia: at least 45,500 flying foxes dead on just one extremely hot day in southeast Queensland, according to our new…

Heat relief: on hot days, flying foxes - like this grey-headed flying fox - dip their bellies into water to cool down. Nick Edards, CC BY-NC-ND

This summer we have seen one of the most dramatic animal die-offs ever recorded in Australia: at least 45,500 flying foxes dead on just one extremely hot day in southeast Queensland, according to our new research.

While flying foxes are often portrayed as noisy pests, they are protected native species, and declines in their populations have significant environmental ramifications as they spread seeds and pollinate native trees.

The mounting toll from repeated mass die-offs across eastern Australia is also significant because of what it tells us about the growing dangers we face from extreme heat.

Falling from the sky

At the beginning of this year, a severe heatwave developed over much of the central and eastern interior of Australia.

On January 4, northwest winds blew the heat to southeast Queensland, which is home to black, grey-headed, and little red flying foxes.

Record temperatures were recorded at nine locations, including Nambour (42.9°C), Beerburrum (43.4°C) and Archerfield (43.5°C). The hottest was Beaudesert, in the Gold Coast hinterland, where temperatures hit a withering 44.6°C.

Soon, social media outlets were abuzz with sightings of mass flying fox deaths, while news sites reported thousands of dead falling from the sky.

We coordinated a massive data-gathering effort to work out the extent of the die-off, visiting colonies between Gladstone in Queensland to the NSW border, and collating numerous reports from state and local government, wildlife care groups and concerned citizens.

More than 45,500 dead and 1000 orphaned

A young black flying-fox, orphaned during the mass die-off in southeast Queensland this summer. Paislie Hadley, CC BY-NC-ND

The carnage we found was horrific. Some colonies had more dead than live animals, with thousands of corpses piled on the ground and hanging in trees. Council workers removed wheelie bins full of bodies, and wildlife carers were swamped with more than 1000 orphaned young flying-foxes.

Our current minimum estimate is that at least 45,500 flying-foxes died that day, in 52 of the 162 colonies we assessed.

All three species – black, grey-headed, and little red flying-foxes – were affected.

However, the more tropical black flying fox was by far the hardest hit (which was in line with previous findings), representing 96% of the dead. These deaths represent about half of the black flying fox population present in the region before the January heatwave, as estimated in surveys coordinated by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Clusters of dead flying foxes were found in and around colonies throughout southeast Queensland this summer. Justin Welbergen

Dead flying foxes collected for measurement from colonies in Sydney in January 2013. John Martin, CC BY-NC-ND

The mounting toll from extreme heat

This was not an isolated event. In 2008, Welbergen and colleagues showed that between 1994 and 2008, more than 30,000 flying foxes have died in 19 such events in Australia.

Since then, flying foxes have been dying from extreme heat almost every year. The worst deaths have happened during the heatwave that precipitated Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, which left more than 5000 dead, and in the first weeks of 2013’s “Angry Summer”, which left more than 10,000 dead.

This year’s die-off in southeast Queensland, the largest on record, was followed by others in Victoria and South Australia.

The threat to Australian flying foxes from extreme heat events is growing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2012 Special Report on Extremes it is “very likely” that the number of warm days has increased since the 1950s, and it is “virtually certain” that the frequency and magnitude of extreme heat events will increase through this century.

Locations of flying fox mortality in southeast Queensland on the 4th of January 2014 Justin Welbergen

“Bat squads”

Flying foxes play an important ecological and economic role in the Australian landscape, including pollinating trees and dispersing seeds, which has been found to promote the resilience of native ecosystems to environmental change.

But unfortunately for flying foxes, and the ecosystem services they provide, recent political and legal changes have reduced protection for them.

In 2012, the Queensland government reintroduced permits to allow shooting of up to 10,500 flying foxes in orchards, in the process exempting them from humaneness requirements that apply for other native wildlife. New South Wales also allows shooting, although it is meant to end mid-year except under “exceptional” circumstances.

Apart from great white sharks, the two flying foxes declared “Vulnerable” under national environmental laws (spectacled and grey-headed flying foxes) are the only nationally threatened species for which regular culling is permitted.

The Queensland government now allows – and encourages – local governments to disperse flying foxes from urban colonies or destroy their roost sites without assessment. In December the Queensland government announced it would legislate to allow culling in flying fox colonies.

And there will soon be fewer constraints, with the federal government, as part of a drive to reduce environmental regulation, proposing to delegate to state governments decisions about developments and other actions likely to affect nationally threatened species.

The political heat around flying foxes has also intensified. Contrary to the advice of his health department, the Queensland premier has claimed that flying foxes are a major health hazard and threatened to send in “bat squads” to regional cities and towns where the state government thinks local councils are not doing enough to remove flying foxes.

Canaries in the coalmine

We know that heatwaves can be deadly for humans, as we have seen again in Australia this summer, as well as in the past in Europe and elsewhere.

Heat-related die-offs also occur in other wildlife, including koalas, Carnaby’s black cockatoos, budgerigars, zebra finches, bumblebees, and butterflies, although such events are generally difficult to document.

Because flying foxes live in colonies, it is comparatively easy to determine the impacts of extreme heat events on the species as a whole. As such, flying foxes are excellent “bioindicators” of die-offs in species that have more cryptic or solitary lifestyles.

It is now clear that many of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change will arise from shifts in the regimes of extreme weather events, rather than from gradual changes in climate means. The impacts of extreme heat events on flying foxes provide a disturbing window into the future of Australia’s wildlife in a warming climate.

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115 Comments sorted by

    1. Colin Cook

      Scientist At Large

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      How about "already happening".

      From a study investigating the effects of the 2009 heatwave on deaths in Victoria (http://docs.health.vic.gov.au/docs/doc/F7EEA4050981101ACA257AD80074AE8B/$FILE/heat_health_impact_rpt_Vic2009.pdf).

      The key findings were:
      Ambulance Victoria metropolitan emergency case load:
      • a 25% increase in total emergency cases and a 46% increase over the three hottest days
      • a 34 fold increase in cases with direct heat-related conditions (61% in those 75 years or older…

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    2. Craig Read

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Colin Cook

      If increases were in road deaths, you'd have police and politicians screaming about it and imposing draconian laws to "stop the carnage".

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    3. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Colin Cook

      I wasn't suggesting that deaths weren't happening just that not yet on a 'massive' scale. Although that leaves the definition of 'massive' open to interpretation.

      The deaths that are currently happening seems to be of the type that politicians can pretty much ignore or cover by 'spin'.

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    4. Peter Sommerville

      Scientist & Technologist

      In reply to Colin Cook

      There are numerous studies all around the world that give rise to the same or similar statistics. The conclusion is relatively simple. There is a relationship between high temperatures and mortality, particularly for the elderly. High temperatures adversely affect the health of other vulnerable groups.

      There is nothing new or surprising in this. I suspect it has always been thus. Moreover, it is something that is relatively simple to address, if as a society we deem it important enough.

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    5. gary hudson

      retired engineer

      In reply to Peter Sommerville

      In reply to Peter Sommerville.
      I don't believe that the article was written to support or refute the "numerous studies all around the world" . "High temperatures" can incinerate/melt metal for example, and socities develop mindsets as a function of the overall environment in which they exist. To ignore and do nothing in response to what may be a very important event is the easy/lazy response.
      Your contention is that the issue "it" is relatively easy to address so please inform those of our society who may deem it important enough, how we should proceed.

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  1. John Troughton

    ANU Alumni

    Just started a Year 4 maths component with measuring human temperatures. Didn't realise it was going to be pivotal in maths going forward, leading into all other disciplines.

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    1. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to John Troughton

      "measuring human temperatures".

      Mine is always about 37.0 degrees C.
      If it gets past 40.0, I see a doctor!

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    2. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      If your skin temperature was 40 degrees you'd be dead! We need to realize just what a basically limited set of temperatures humans can survive in and how fundamentally vulnerable we, and in particular mammals , are.

      A lot of people may like to think of themselves as bulletproof, and it appears that it is built into our genes to encourage us to think that way, but the truth is quite different.

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    3. Colin Cook

      Scientist At Large

      In reply to John Campbell

      A skin temperature of 40 deg is OK, and you'd survive an internal temperature that high (I once had a fever of 40.5 deg when I had pneumonia). Once your internal temperature starts to rise above 41 deg, you're in danger of serious damage to tissues and organs.

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    1. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      "defend" pestilential bats?

      How about a word for the orchardists who provide you with food?
      Do they have to suffer so your precious little bats can continue to proliferate?

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    2. Gil Thorncraft

      Concerned World Citizen

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Fruit bats were around a long time before orchardists.
      We don`t own this planet. To think we do is just arrogance.
      We share it with every other animal species.
      Including those extremely valuable fruit bats who, in all probability, pollinate the flowers of those same orchardists..

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    3. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Yes Mike we should kill everything (other than people and a few special animals) especially all those obnoxious germs that cause people such grief.

      And you know what Mike - you would also soon be dead.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Mike, even if they are ugly pit canaries you'd be a damned fool to ignore the warning they give and, frankly, there are a fair few unattractive and annoying species around that you could tar with the same brush - and, given your choice of the phrase 'precious little' I expect you have quite a large tar brush.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Colin Cook

      Does this also work with pestilential (but also beloved and protected) possums and rosellas?

      I'm looking seriously at some fauirly expensive netting for my half dozen or so fruit trees in Canberra...

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    6. Colin Cook

      Scientist At Large

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Ah, those pesky rosellas. We have the same problem, but only when it's a very dry summer. Last summer, they stripped the fruit trees before the apples had even got to golf ball size. Must have been seriously short of food. If the possums are living in your house or shed, they'll head for the nearest food source. They like blossoms too, as they often end up in a climbing rose. They tend not to trouble the fruit trees because they'd have to travel across too much open ground to get to them. So, removing aerial highways can be a start.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Colin Cook

      Yeah - that'll teach me to plant my trees along the back fence under a fairly low powerline - I think that pretty much provides the highway - I suspect I'll just have to net and be done with it. I've successfully possum-proofed the house and sheds but they seem to be nesting nearby, so that didn't help much, unfortunately.

      And don't they just love roses?

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    8. Nonie Batra

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Sorry, I always thought death and injury was a worse form of suffering than inconvenience. There are plenty of better ways to protect what you're growing, such as proper netting.

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    9. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Colin Cook

      Our house receives annual visits from corellas who "harvest" our crab apple tree. Other than the mess they create when they drop partly eaten fruit over our drivwaysI don't care a whole lot.

      Crab apples are not high on my list of desirable fruit. My wife planted the tree.

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  2. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Amazing!

    For years I was bashed about the head by those who said global warming and climate change was about the gradual increase in global temperature, receding ice shelves and rising seas.

    Now this line, 'I is now clear that many of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change will arise from shifts in the regimes of extreme weather events, rather than from gradual changes in climate means.'

    How do authors justify their statement scientifically in view that the science on gradual global warming is considered 'settled' by the bulk of the world's scientists?

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      "weather" and "climate" get confused in many minds.
      It'll take centuries to measure climate change.
      It takes one day to see a change in the weather.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Yes Gerard, every decade has been hotter than the last, but when in an individual year heat-waves have a major impact on life, and changes both populations and the environment necessary for that life, longer lasting viability of the species in an area will change as a result. You may remember the marine version of a heatwave in 2010/11 off the WA coast, I'm not sure if you consider Tim Winton a credible source, but at the time he mentioned hundreds of thousands of abalone crawling out of the ocean…

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      What is your source for your views Gerard? Please share them with us, I for one would like to know.

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      @Mike Faulkner

      Your claim that it will take centuries to measure climate change is not true - making stuff up is not helpful in a discussion of science.

      You may find it useful to read the latest IPCC reports which you can find here.
      http://www.climatechange2013.org/

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    5. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      "It'll take centuries to measure climate change"

      A quick glance at the recent IPCC report executive summary confirms that climate change is already being "measured" and monitored and is unequivocal. That's why apologists for the global hydrocarbon economy have changed their denial over the past decade from "it's not happening" to "it's got nothing to do with human GHG emissions".

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    6. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      He is certainly making it up. Yes global warming up to the present has been fairly gradual, but it is not going to stay that way.

      In fact I suspect we are just beyong the turning point were the rate of global warming is going to increase marketably..

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    7. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Your point?

      Weather is a chaotic system with innumerable variables and vary difficult to model. Although you would have to say gigantic strides have been made in recent times.

      Climate, although complicated, is a different kettle of fish altogether, and there are many different methods (such as ice cores, tree rings etc) of determining what the climate was a very long time ago.

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    8. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      It will take centuries to measure and understand what climate change is all about. To claim that a suspect parameter with suspect definition is in any way a measure of a change in climate taking place is naieve. Most of us are in agreement that climate is changin. what we must wait and see is, "in what way?"

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    9. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      "It will take centuries to measure and understand what climate change is all about."

      Sure. If you say so.

      "a suspect parameter with suspect definition"

      This attitude is called "science denial". There is no cure.

      "Most of us are in agreement that climate is changin."

      How can you agree that something is changing if you can't measure the change?

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    10. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris,
      Everything, (no matter how minute), can be measured in some way.
      Father Abbott's brainwaves are a case in point.

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  3. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Yes Gerard, the science on gradual temperature rises is settled by the majority of reputable scientists but as you would well know, this gradual increase has much further reaching implications than a few warmer days here and there. That in itself would not be cause for concern however, scientists link gradual temperature rise to increased weather extremes due to the loss of natural phenomena that assist regulating weather patterns. Increases in the frequency of heatwaves, El Nino & La Nina, gulf stream variations etc have all been linked to small increases in overall global temperatures by these scientists.

      While many will still doubt the science and use an ever dwindling source of denialist literature to support their conservative views, the increased occurrences of these weather patterns cannot be denied and as usual it will be the most defenceless creatures that will suffer the effects the most.

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    2. In reply to Gerard Dean

      Comment removed by moderator.

  4. Imelda J

    RN Bsc Dip Journ

    Thank you for an interesting and informative article.

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  5. Whyn Carnie

    Retired Engineer

    There are quite a few out here in the real world who would applaud this natural event. Those who seek to resettle flying foxes to zones of better climate are the real heros. Too bad if some eucalypts can't get by on bees and birds for pollination and seed spreading. After seeing and smelling the excreta left after a night of debauchery among the palm trees one must doubt that any seeds that do make it back to the colony aren't too viable. The cons against fruit bats far outweigh the pros, especially in suburbia.

    Batlovers who talk up the so called benefits these protected vermin bring are not facing reality. Move them off and let them take their chances. People must be given precedence.

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    1. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      "Too bad if some eucalypts can't get by on bees and birds for pollination and seed spreading."
      "… seeds that do make it back to the colony aren't too viable."
      "The cons against fruit bats far outweigh the pros…"

      These statements are fundamentally flawed, and are based on a lack of education on how the natural world works, and ultimately a lack of understanding of what is necessary for humans to survive.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Whyn, I suppose this would be ok for some if flying foxes could rely on an abundant source of naturally occurring native tree species to munch, but have you considered that these trees themselves are not becoming stressed by climate change. There is another conversation today about the topic which you could read
      https://theconversation.com/catch-22-big-trees-fight-climate-change-but-suffer-in-the-heat-23133
      What you are suggesting is that entire species of animals and trees within the landscape could become extinct because FF's are noisy and stink.
      Vermin declaration is a matter of opinion, I'm of the opinion that David Attenborough was right when he said, " We are a plague on the earth. It's coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It's not just climate change; It's sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous hoard. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now."

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    3. Colin Cook

      Scientist At Large

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Recent modelling (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.873/full) has demonstrated that eucalypts are going to have a narrower range of suitable locations when the impacts of climate change start to bite.

      "the direction of shifts and contractions in range, suggest that many species in the eastern and southern seaboards will be pushed toward the continental limit and that large tracts of currently treed landscapes, especially in the continental interior, will change dramatically in terms of species composition and ecosystem structure."

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    4. Gil Thorncraft

      Concerned World Citizen

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      "People must be given precedence".
      Why?
      We are just another mammal species, no better than any other.
      Different yes, better NO.
      In fact we are probably worse because we are the only animal species actively engaged in destroying our own environment for our own personal gratification.
      No other animal species does this.

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    5. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Not condescending when in aplied aptly to the above post.

      The essence of that post is: "bats smell and leave poo in my neighbourhood. Remove them all and let the humans have priority!"....oh yeah "and to hell with the trees and plants, what do we need them for anyway".

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    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Colin Cook

      I would have thought something like this will happen, which is why current climate change is so worrying, in the past critters and plants could gradually move. I have a seasonal group of about twenty which eat my fruit. I now prune my apples and pears in the 'victorian/romantic' style. Don't prune out the centre, but the underlying branches, let em grow tall with a single leader, and form a weeping elongated pyramid with fruit closer to the ground. The trees are larger, stronger, and ultimately bear more fruit. I get fruit around the bottom, they and the parrots can have the top fruit. I've left some seedlings as extra crap fruit for them, so that we can share more.

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    7. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Gil Thorncraft

      You probably know gil that, scientifically the only difference between humans and other animals is that humans think there not.

      Actually I would add one more - humans whinge a lot more than other animals. You would have to wonder that in some senses they are not more stupid.

      One thing common of some animals is there ability to breed massively in good times only to have mass mortality when things go bad. it seems we are headed down the same route

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Damn, Whyn, here's me living in fairyland - nice to hear an authoritative bulletin from the 'real world'...

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    9. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Think I missed whatever points are in question here. My sentence that included fruit bats was not a rant, just my opinion about fruit bats that live in suburbia. There would be no suburbia for bats to infest without us.

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    10. In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Comment removed by moderator.

    11. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Gil Thorncraft

      Gil,
      The bats in the Sydney Botanical gardens are doing a very good job of " destroying their own environment for their own personal gratification".
      Have a look sometime!

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    12. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    13. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    14. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    15. In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Comment removed by moderator.

    16. In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Comment removed by moderator.

    17. Steve Amesbury

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Mike,
      In what way is the RBGS - a collection of exotic plants and trees - a part of the Australian environment? Regardless of its historical significance to humankind, the gardens replaced native forests which had existed in that location for hundreds of thousands of years, and which was host to countless native species, possibly including flying foxes.

      Your argument holds true when viewed only from an anthropocentric viewpoint.

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    18. Steve Amesbury

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Tiffany, I agree with you 100%. Even the ignorant have a right to express their views, although it it irksome that people such as Whyn feel so comfortable substituting uninformed opinion for fact.

      The cold truth is that so many people still believe the myth that humans are not animals and that somehow the value of an animal depends on its usefulness to mankind. As I have posted previously, the world population has more than doubled since 1960.

      If this were any other species, the same people would be up in arms demanding a cull.

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    19. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Okay, once more - I'll substitute your reasoning:
      Humans live in fruit bat habitat, therefore the human infestation of their habitat is the reason you are inconvenienced by their habits - just as they are very inconvenienced by yours.
      It's all in the perspective: Do you see yourself as a part of Nature or as standing outside/above/apart from it?

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    20. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I'm a bit surprised our friendly conversastion monitor has let our little diatribe go on so long. Please allow me my opinons. I don't seek to change yours.

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    21. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      G'day Whyn and Suzy,

      It did get a bit heated earlier, and more people kept joining in... We get complaints and abuse reports when people start fighting and it starts to take over a comment thread. Sometimes it does reach a point when you might both be happier to agree to disagree.

      Of course if you do want to keep disagreeing, go for it: just please do so as courteously as if you were talking in person.

      All the best, Liz

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    22. Carol Booth

      Science writer & Editor of Wildlife Australia; casual academic at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Campbell

      Because flying-foxes don't successfully produce young until their second or third year, and have only one a year, they can't 'breed massively' in good years. They can maintain their populations only by living long and suffering low mortality rates.

      Mcilwee, A. P.; Martin, L., 2002: On the intrinsic capacity for increase of Australian flying-foxes. Australian Zoologist. 32(1): 76-100.

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    23. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Carol Booth

      You do realize I was talking about humans breeding massively not flying foxes don't you?

      I was suggesting that Global Warming is going to cause a large number of human deaths in the not too distant future.

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    24. Carol Booth

      Science writer & Editor of Wildlife Australia; casual academic at University of Queensland

      In reply to John Campbell

      John,I wasn't sure whether you were referring to flying-foxes as an animal that can 'breed massively'. Sorry for assuming and implying that you were.

      It's a common misperception about flying-foxes. People see them massed together in a camp and call it a 'plague'.

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    25. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy,

      The pejorative word "rant" is uncalled for.

      A more reasoned choice would perhaps be "well thought-out and carefully presented argument".

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    26. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix,
      its not the words themselves you use, so much as the unkindly manner in which they are intended to hurt poor innocent bystanders.

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    27. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Whyn,

      Rants equates to an unwelcome argument.
      You'd be less hurt if you could agree more with those "who know best".

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    28. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Liz,
      Well expressed.
      BTW, a bit of levity helps the ambience all round, don't you think?

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    29. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Undoubtedly, and you're certainly entitled to stand for it. It simply shows your limited understanding of this world and how the future of our very existence relies upon a thriving natural environment.

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    30. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      I certainly hope my last paragraph is not EVERYTHING you stand for? It is a very limited pragraph....

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  6. Liz Downes

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    This article really brings home how climate change impacts accumulate: extreme heat > mass deaths of flying-foxes > impoverishment of forest and woodlands > loss of other wildlife dependent on those forests etc etc. Yet some go blithely on saying "we've always had heatwaves, this is nothing special". Indeed we have, but the figures show never so repeatedly, or for such prolonged periods (at least in human recorded time). And when, by our own direct action, we have already lost so much of our wildlife…

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  7. Jeremy Tager

    Extispicist

    Everywhere we turn there are two realities colliding. Climate change is reducing the health and resilience of natural systems that were already in decline and we know that we must increase resilience if we are going to have any hope of protecting these life support systems. On the other side, all governments, both ALP and Coalition, are allowing unprecedented levels of destruction, are eliminating environmental protection laws, are reducing the rights of the public to challenge this destruction and…

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    1. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      I would add one other think Jeremy - exponential growth. Unless we can change the mindset of politicians who thing growth is good and more growth is better we have no hope of protecting our diversity and natural environments.

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    2. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Jeremy Tager

      Spot on Jeremy. "The beast with a thousand heads" (and with a thousand and more warheads) is the globally organised system of environmentally-destructive economic extraction, the hydra whose destructive career is facilitated by means of the collusion of "our" governments. The blow by blow disintegration of the biosphere to which our generation must bear witness in a macro version of the denuding of RapaNui, is the slow motion disassembly of an intricately organised evolutionary living web, a cosmic…

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    3. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Pat, Slow down.I don't understand any of this.
      Maybe I should take up gardening like yourself, and get a better grip on things. Rapanui to you too.

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  8. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Surveyor

    It is easy to read into past history that there have been recurrent episodes of bird kills in heat waves since record keeping began. If there had been flying foxes in a region, logic suggests that they would have suffered also. Just 2 references are given here; there are many more.
    http://www.warwickhughes.com/agri/bird%20deaths%201932.pdf
    http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/thousands-of-birds-die-in-sweltering-heat/story-e6frg12c-1111118551504

    These are unfortunate events. However, the data do…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Very funny

      Sherrington, a climate science denier says
      "It is easy to read into past history that there have been recurrent episodes of bird kills in heat waves since record keeping began."

      And then provides this reference to a heatwave in **2009**.
      http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/thousands-of-birds-die-in-sweltering-heat/story-e6frg12c-1111118551504

      "THOUSANDS of birds have dropped dead at the Overlander Roadhouse, 200km south of Carnarvon, apparently perishing from extreme heat and lack of water. Temperatures have topped 45C during a two-week heat wave which is thought to have cooked the birds, mostly juvenile budgerigars and zebra finches."

      Past history - yeah like 4 years ago.

      His other reference is to a climate crank blog run by a character who belongs to the group covered in this story.
      https://theconversation.com/an-insiders-story-of-the-global-attack-on-climate-science-21972

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    2. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      I would hope nobody shouts you down for your opinions Geoffrey.

      The article does link the heat to the animal deaths, but as you have mentioned, causality of said heat may be open for debate. Logically though, food shortages or toxic water would not necessarily be limited to days of extreme heat when these deaths occurred and there is little evidence to make those links. Most often, unsubstantiated claims like this are targeted by opposition as they can appear as an attempt to hijack and/or divert…

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      The data, yes, there were heat waves in the past which killed large populations of birds. What were the populations of birds in these areas then, what does data say now, do these areas support similar populations now? In fact populations of birds and flying foxes have been crashing for many years in Australia. Comparing badly documented accounts of numbers killed in an event in the earlier 20th. century with events now with no consideration of higher populations in the first place is a bit silly…

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    4. Gary Luke
      Gary Luke is a Friend of The Conversation.

      thoroughly disgusted

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Don't you know yet that everything now is different than previously no matter how much it seems to be the same. Hotness didn't determine anything in the past but it does now. We're in a rare era of virgin circumstances.

      In the past when temperatures varied, the surviving genes of animal mass deaths due to heat were not fit for the follow-on varying climate. Now that it's constantly too hot we should expect the surviving gene pool to be robustly suited to the hotter climate.

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    5. Carol Booth

      Science writer & Editor of Wildlife Australia; casual academic at University of Queensland

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      While food shortages would make flying-foxes more vulnerable to heat deaths, there is no doubt that the deaths of >45,000 flying-foxes spread across >50 camps all on one day were caused by high temperatures. Generally, once temperatures rise to about 42 degrees, flying-foxes are at risk of dying.

      Welbergen et al. (2008) could find anecdotal evidence for only 3 heat-related die-offs in flying-foxes prior to 1994 but documented 16 such events between 1994 and 2007 and, as noted in the article above, they have occurred in most years since then.

      Although die-offs in the past are less likely to have been reported, an increase is consistent with rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves.

      Welbergen, J.A., Klose, S.M., Markus, N., & Eby, P. 2008 Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B , 275, 419-425

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    6. Eric Vanderduys

      Ecological Researcher

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Hi Geoffrey,

      I'm interested in hearing your case for your points A, B, and C.If you make them well, and they're well supported, I can't see you being shouted down.

      Regarding point A, I tend to disagree that bird heat wave die-offs are a reasonable surrogate for bat heat wave die-offs. I don't doubt that both often occur at similar times, but bats behave very differently to most birds, most notably in their nocturnal activity, and its corollary, daytime camps. It seems Carol Booth in her comment…

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  9. lawrence pope

    animal advocate and writer

    Excellent report. The national trend in flying fox decline and lack of protection is disturbing. These animals directly contribute to Australia's ecological well-being in maintaining healthy, forests,(and systemically) water, and land. That's their environmental role. What's ours?

    The federal and state governments need an urgent rethink in bat protection. Outcross pollination and seed dispersal is critical to building resilience in our ecosystems. Bats = Biodiversity.

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    1. Elizabeth Sinclair

      Research Associate Professor at University of Western Australia

      In reply to lawrence pope

      Well stated Lawrence! Just wanted to add that increasing fragmentation of the native forests along the east coast (largely due to human activities) are also contributing to this problem. Increasing distances between feeding/roosting sites makes life even more difficult for these migratory bats. When will governments finally take note and realise that a healthy environment is the only long term sustainable way to go?

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  11. Steve Amesbury

    logged in via LinkedIn

    The sad thing is that conservation has been politicised, with the general public being served up a steady diet of lies by the Qld Government. Sure, flying foxes can and do transmit viruses. But is there any animal that does not have the capacity to do so? In terms of a threat to health, the simple, demonstrable truth is that as the vectors of serious health threats, flying foxes are statistically insignificant.

    More people die from interactions with pet dogs in one year, than have ever fallen…

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    1. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Steve Amesbury

      It is people who are putting pressure on flying foxes for food and space not the reverse!

      Yes what a common problem - take away a species habitation and food so it must invade suburbia and then define it as a big problem to be solved by mass slaughter.

      As our growth continues unabated this issue will only multiply.

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    2. Steve Amesbury

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to John Campbell

      It is fascinating that when any species increases in numbers, people shout 'plague' and demand culls. We ignore the fact that in one generation (since 1960) human population has more than doubled from around 3 billion to over 7 billion.

      Put that into perspective: it took thousands of years for humanity to reach a population of 1 billion, but about 10 years to add the last 1billion. No wonder there's little room for any other species.

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    3. Mike Faulkner

      retiree

      In reply to Steve Amesbury

      Hello Steve
      "Conservation isn't a popularity contest, and the general public are not the arbiters of what is, and what is not worth saving".

      Then who is the "arbiter"? Only those who agree with you?

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    4. Colin Cook

      Scientist At Large

      In reply to Mike Faulkner

      Based on ecological principles, all species are worth saving. What varies is the degree of effort put into individual species and this can be influenced by the degree of "cuteness". Bats tend to polarise peoples opinions.

      Conservation efforts are meant to be based on the level of threat to a species. Any species can be listed as endangered to some degree or not eg the IUCN Red List (http://www.iucnredlist.org/) or the local listings under the EPBC Act (http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/threatened-species-ecological-communities). Listings are made based on scientific knowledge about current populations and threats to future population growth. Cuteness doesn't come into the initial listing, but the public can comment on proposed changes to the status of any listed species (there was one recently for Leadbeaters Possum).

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