BANGKOK (AlertNet) - Climate change is threatening 163 rare species discovered only last year in the Greater Mekong region, conservation group WWF said on Friday.
Events such as frequent droughts and floods plus a rise in sea levels spell danger for species in what WWF called in a report "one of the world's last biological frontiers", a region spanning Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China's Yunnan province.
"Forecasts for the Greater Mekong region show that climate change will dramatically alter ecosystems," Geoffrey Blate, WWF's regional climate change coordinator, told AlertNet.
"Species most at risk are those with the least physiological tolerance to changes in temperature and precipitation, and those species with narrow or very restricted habitats."
Among the rare new species identified as vulnerable in the "Close Encounters" report are a bird that would rather walk than fly, a frog with fangs and a leopard-striped gecko with orange eyes.
Their habitats and the food they need for survival are often already restricted and climate change is expected to worsen the situation, according to the WWF.
It said many would not be able to adapt to climate change, "potentially resulting in massive extinctions".
With a diverse geography and climate zones, the Mekong is home to over 320 million people and numerous rare species, including the deer-like saola and the world's largest huntsman spider with a leg span of 30 cm (12 inches).