Australia’s bushfires spell trouble for endangered species

The recent Australian bushfire has destroyed habitat for a number of native Australian vertebrate species, including a number of threatened species. Credit: fvanrenterghem

Australia’s recent bushfires have burned habitat for native animal species, 21 of which were already listed as threatened with extinction. Scientists used government data from satellites along with on-the-ground data to look at the effects of the bushfires between July 2019 and February 2020. Bushfires generally burn about 1% of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in Australia, but these fires were unprecedented, burning about 21%. The researchers found the recent bushfires burned 37,000 square kilometers across southern and eastern Australia. This area is home to about 832 species of native vertebrate species. They found that 70 of those species had more than 30% of their habitat burned, and 21 of them were already listed as threatened with extinction by the Australian government. Affected species include koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and kangaroos (Macropus rufus), as well as lesser-known species like the Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni).

Read more in Wired or check out the study in Nature Ecology and Evolution.