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Climate change a threat to Komodo dragons

The world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, could be driven to extinction by climate change, a new study has found.

Led by the University of Adelaide, the study found that the impact of both global warming and sea-level rise threatens the future of Komodo dragons, which already have restricted habitats on five Indonesian islands.

"Climate change is likely to cause a sharp decline in the availability of habitat for Komodo dragons, severely reducing their abundance in a matter of decades," lead author Alice Jones, from the university's School of Biological Sciences, said.

"Our models predict local extinction on three of the five island habitats where Komodo dragons are found today."

The Komodo dragon is the world's most iconic lizard species which has existed for more than a million years, but only an estimated 4000 survive in the wild.

They are endemic to five southeast Indonesian islands, Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode and Gili Motang, which are part of Komodo National Park, and Flores, the fifth and largest island which has three nature reserves.

"Current-day conservation strategies are not enough to avoid species decline in the face of climate change," Dr Jones said.

"This is because climate change will compound the negative effects of already small, isolated populations."

But the study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, found that interventions, such as establishing new reserves in areas that are predicted to sustain high-quality habitats in the future, could work to lessen the effects of climate change.

Co-author Deni Purwandana, co-ordinator of the Komodo Survival Program, said the severity and extent of human actions impacting Komodo dragon populations were only just being realised.

"Having an insight into future impacts of climate change provides new possibilities to work with conservation agencies and local communities to find on-ground solutions that will limit climate and other threats to Komodo dragons and their habitats," he said.

© AAP 2020