Climate Change, Conservation

Bandicoots Survived Global Changes, But Can’t Survive Human Impacts

Bandicoots are in dire danger from habitat loss, introduced predators, and hunting.
Photo CC-BY Greg Schechter

Bandicoots are the marsupial version of rodents, small and quite adaptable creatures found throughout Australasia, and they’ve been around for a very long time. In fact, the modern bandicoots that live in the arid deserts of Australia actually predate the onset of that aridity by about 40 million years. They’re supremely adaptable creatures.

But that isn’t stopping them from being wiped out by human activity.

In the last century multiple species of bandicoot have gone extinct due to the introduction of foreign predators, habitat loss, and hunting by humans. They’re one of the most vulnerable mammal groups in Australasia, and their loss would likely be devastating for that region’s fragile ecosystem. Because they’re naturally so common and appear throughout the ecosystem, they fill a variety of roles, and their loss could result in, for example, the increase in pest species they help keep in check, or the over-predation of other small species who share their general level of the food chain.

The loss of any native species is bad for an ecosystem and requires that system to adapt to a new balance. This is something that has, over history, happened countless times in nature, but it does so at a much slower rate than when humans disturb ecosystems. Bandicoots have survived massive climatic changes, the kind that humans are threatening the earth with today, but they can’t survive contact with us.

Although global climate change is a huge problem, and one that will cause a great deal of damage to the world, it’s not the only way in which humans are affecting the planet. Study after study shows that human activities have unforeseen impacts. Habitat loss is general a byproduct of repurposing land, like clear-cutting for agriculture, which in turn impacts a region’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide.

Everything human beings do has an impact, and if we don’t start paying a lot more attention to those impacts, they’re going to keep snowballing into larger and larger threats.

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