Indirect Effects Of The Bushfire on Australia’s Animals
Australia’s biodiversity is so distinctive because of the isolation of the continent on geological time scales. That means that the flora and fauna of the country have been able to evolve from the rest of the world. However, human activity has transformed the Australian ecosystems at an accelerated rate. Drought, emissions, deforestation, poor ocean quality have led to indigenous species becoming endangered or even extinct. Some examples include the Christmas Island forest skink, Christmas Island pipistrelle and Bramble Cay melomys. Rising sea levels have caused 50% of the Great Barrier Reef to die.
Many habitats have been destroyed as well, setting up a crisis that will continue long after the fires die down. Even if animals such as small marsupials survive the fires, they may have no suitable habitat or food remaining — and they also face threats from cats and foxes, introduced predators that return to burnt landscapes and prey on survivors left exposed in habitats devoid of cover.
Fires happen quite often in Australia. As a result, many native species have learned to adapt and thrive due to how common they are. For example, eucalyptus trees have the ability to regrow quickly after a fire. Birds are able to fly higher than before while mammals dig deeper underground or in hollows of trees.
But the bushfire of 2020 is so vast in comparison to any previous fires. Birds are disoriented by the smoke, tree hollows no longer exist and the land is left scorching and barren.
In the case of habitats on the borders of New South Wales and Queensland have not faced many bushfires before. The wildlife here is not as evolved to survive the fire.
The bushfire has caused a setback to years of conservation and in the case of the Kangaroo Island has wiped out years of effort and research. Known for its vast tracts of diverse wildlife and a series of national parks, Kangaroo park has been a refuge for endangered animals for a long time. But since the fires, the population of the glossy black cockatoo and the Kangaroo Island dunnart have been reduced to single digits.
The elimination of species is not just a huge blow to the biodiversity of the country, it indirectly affects Aboriginal communities, who have a deeply-rooted relationship with the land and its wildlife. Animals are intricate parts of their narratives and cultural identities and their value is something numbers cannot quantify.
Euan Ritchie, a wildlife ecologist, believes that most species may be able to recover. He suggests they can get back to their original number in a couple of years. However, he suggests that extensive work needs to be done. Firstly, policies need to be changed. Secondly, every individual needs to be aware of climate change and their serious effects. And finally, people need to be respectful of the environment.
Here’s how you can do your part to save Australia’s animals.