photo credit: Ryan Fowler Photography // Shutterstock
Over the past few months, social media has been plastered with photos and videos of the devastating fires currently burning in Australia. More than 21 million acres have been torched over the past 4 months. The fires are mostly locate in the state of New South Wales, where 2,500 building have been destroyed, 27 people have been killed, and an estimated 1 billion animals have been killed, according to University of Sydney ecologist Christopher Dickman. Footage of people rushing to save koalas and kangaroos have blown up, leading many to help raise money for the catastrophic event.
This has been called the worst bushfire season the continent has ever seen after a combination of record-breaking heat, drought, lightening strikes and possibly cases of arson have become the cause of more than 100 fires. With there still being 4 months left in the fire season in some parts of Australia, ecologist are preparing for the worst: destruction of key habitats, starvation, exposure to predators, and loss of genetic diversity, which could lead to even more animal deaths.
Dickman and other ecologists explain to OneZero that it could take decades for these ecosystems to regenerate, if they do at all. Even if the ecosystems succeed, it’s possible that this single fire season will have caused the extinction of entire animal species. Dickman’s 1 billion estimate doesn’t even include insects, spiders, frogs, or bats, which are especially vulnerable to increasing temperatures.
“It’s pretty awful,” Dickman says. “A lot of these animals occur nowhere else on the planet.”
Written by Clarke Jones