Animal breakdown of catastrophic bushfires quantified

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wildlife killed in bushfires
Photo: wittkephotos – 123rf

Estimates some three billion animals were killed or misplaced by the 2019-20 mega-fires in Australia have been confirmed—with a breakdown by animal type for the first time—in a conclusive Sydney-led report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature – Australia.

More than 60,000 koalas were among the animals impacted by last summer’s wildfire crisis, according to the University of Sydney-led report commissioned by the WWF.

Impacts include death, injury, trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, loss of habitat, reduced food supply, increased predation risk, and conflict with other animals after fleeing to unburnt forest. 

In July, WWF published an interim version of the study which revealed that nearly three billion animals— mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs—were in the path of the devastating bushfires.

That overall estimate is unchanged in the final report, entitled Impacts of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires on Australian animals.

About 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 181 million birds, and 51 million frogs occupied areas hit by the fires.

The completed research contains new information including estimates of the impacts on some individual animal species and groupings of species.

The research into how many animals were impacted by the fires was managed by Dr Lily van Eeden and overseen by Professor Chris Dickman, both from the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Their recommendations include implementing mapping and monitoring of plants and animals in bioregions most at risk in future fires, and developing strategies to protect these areas during fires. 

“People have been shocked by our research and have said to me, ‘we can’t allow catastrophes of this magnitude to continue into the future’,” Professor Dickman said. 

This article was sourced from the News page on the University of Sydney News website.

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