20 June 2011

Climate change may increase fire-related risks for little penguins

Little penguins on Phillip Island.
Photo credit: Marcus Frieze.
Some rights reserved.
AUSTRALIA - Climate change may lead to an increased risk of death and injury by fire for Phillip Island's little penguins, says the Australian Federal Government.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has released a series of fact sheets about the impacts of climate change in Australia - and unfortunately little penguins get a special mention.

The factsheet for Victoria says that little penguins on Phillip Island have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to fire over the past few years, and it is predicted that weather-related fires will become more frequent.

In coastal regions, misty rain or fog following long spells of hot, dry and dusty weather can result in the ignition of power pole cross arms. This is due to a build up of salt and dust on the insulators; the red-hot salt crust can fall from the pole and ignite vegetation at its base. In recent years, a number of such fires have occurred on Phillip Island, resulting in death or injury of a large number of penguins.

As it is projected that climate change will mean an increase in the occurrence of hot, dry and dusty weather, the Government says Phillip Island's little penguins may therefore face an increased risk of fire-related death and injury.

Climate change impacts in Australia - Victoria, 14 June 2011, Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency

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