The last four months has been devastating for the Australian Environment with bushfires ravaging forests and habitats: from North Queensland rainforests never expected to burn, to the wet Eucalypt forests of East Gippsland. From the scrublands in Western Australia to the unique ecosystems and habitats on Kangaroo Island off the South Australian Coast.
These bushfires have been driven by clear climate factors. A warming in Australia during 2019 of 1.5C, with more frequent extreme heat events, a record deficiency in rainfall (also partly driven by climate factors) and reduced soil moisture increasing the dry ‘fuel load’ in the environment, and a long term increase in Forest Fire Danger Index and fire weather.
Australia is Burning by the numbers (to 8 Jan): Source: France24
- 10.7 million hectares now burnt (8 Jan)
- Over 1 billion wildlife affected (a conservative estimate) Extinction event likely for some species
- 400m tonnes CO2 Emissions (Australia’s annual emissions are 528MT)
- Over 2000 homes destroyed (many more sheds & structures)
- 26 people dead
- Current fires: NSW 129 fires, Vic 40 fires
- Smoke air pollution choking capital cities (Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne) and many regional towns in SE Australia
- $700m in insurance claims so far
Six of Australia’s prominent conservation biology, ecology and fire scientists have authored an article at The Conversation published 9 January explaining “We estimate most of the range and population of between 20 and 100 threatened species will have been burnt. Such species include the long-footed potoroo, Kangaroo Island’s glossy black-cockatoo and the Spring midge orchid.”
“The continued existence of such species was already tenuous. Their chances of survival are now much lower again.”