Many waterways in Australia that have been inundated with ash and debris following the devastating bush fires this spring and summer, killing fish and other aquatic life and fouling drinking water supplies. The thick dark mud flowing into creeks and streams is killing insect larvae, tadpoles, freshwater shrine, crayfish oysters along with many protected species of fish. One of the primary impacts of the large pulse of ash was a rapid decline in dissolved oxygen levels in the water.
Australia’s Bushfires Brought 113 Species Closer to Extinction
On Tuesday, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment released a list of 113 species with the highest urgent need for conservation action due to the damage they’ve suffered from this tragic situation. The list includes species such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart and Pugh’s frog, both of which are “at imminent risk of extinction,” per the report, because of how much habitat the fires destroyed.
These species were endangered before this year’s bushfire season kicked off. Now, things have gotten worse when they need to be getting better. Most have lost at least 30 percent of their range, but many have lost even more. The endemic red browed treecreeper, for instance, saw almost half of its range burn. This priority list features animals such as the golden-tipped bat, which likes to dwell in the forests and caves of the fire-stricken eastern coast of Australia, is among those included. This list is focusing on species with key functions in the ecosystem.
Many of the other species on the list—13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, five invertebrae, 22 crayfish, and 17 freshwater fish—also face severe habitat disruption.
Koalas starving and dying of thirst after bushfires destroyed their habitat
Koalas are starving to death because bushfires plaguing the country are destroying their food. The bushfires in the Adelaide Hills have burned 25,000 hectares of land and left koalas desperately searching for food and water. Its often at least four days before they are found. Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves – but thousands of trees have been decimated by fires.
Koalas ‘Functionally Extinct’ After Australia Bushfires
As Australia experiences record-breaking drought and bushfires, koala populations have dwindled along with their habitat, leaving them “functionally extinct.”
The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed.
Recent bushfires, along with prolonged drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming “functionally extinct” according to experts.
Functional extinction is when a population becomes so limited that they no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem and the population becomes no longer viable. While some individuals could produce, the limited number of koalas makes the long-term viability of the species unlikely and highly susceptible to disease.
Three people have died, four are missing and at least 150 homes have been destroyed as bushfires rage across eastern Australia, authorities said on Saturday. There were 81 fires burning across the state on Saturday afternoon, 36 of them uncontained, with an emergency warning on four of them.
Further north, in Queensland, thousands of residents near the resort town of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, spent the night in evacuation centres.
This is one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons and it is occurring even before the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer, with parts of the country already crippled by severe drought.
Millions and millions of acres of land burn each year in the U.S. because of wildfires. There are many ways that wildfires make a big impact on native animal populations.
During wildfires, varieties of smaller animals attempt to outrun the blaze by burrowing or hiding underneath rocks. Afterward, predators know that cover will be scarce for these prey animals and will stalk the burned zone in large numbers, kicking off a feeding frenzy for anybody who’s enterprising enough to wait.
Wildfires are especially hard on young animal populations, who cannot outrun the fire, as well as more mature animals or those who aren’t savvy enough to find a place to wait it out.
The temperature and chemical makeup of streams, rivers and other bodies of water can be greatly altered by wildfires, which can harm fish populations and impact their ability to reproduce.
Wildfires may also increase the amount of water flowing into an area, since there’s less established plant matter to draw it out of the ground and keep it from running down slopes. Landslides can completely remake a native species’ familiar habitat, plus introduce sediment and harmful materials into streams that animals depend on for food.
There are some good reasons to look forward to wildfires, though. Many plant species, like the giant sequoia, have seeds that only take root in the fine layer of ash left behind after a fire. With all of the other plants in the way, these seeds wouldn’t stand a chance of germinating otherwise.
Wildfires disrupt moth-flower relationships, increasing risk of extinctions
New research in Portugal suggests wildfires disrupt unique relationships between flowers and the specialized moths that pollinate them.
In the wake of wildfire, wildflowers take advantage of an ecosystem cleared of larger plant species. Post-fire wildflower blooms prove a boon to daytime pollinators like bees and butterflies, but new research showed moths, which visit flowers at night, aren’t so lucky.
When scientists surveyed moths from sites across Portugal, they found the insects carry a surprising amount of pollen. In the spring, 95 percent of the moths captured and analyzed were carrying pollen. Scientists also found the pollen of 80 percent of the native flower species being carried by surveyed moths.
However, pollen levels measured on moths caught in areas recently scorched by wildfire were five times lower than moths found in fire-free areas.
French authorities say firefighters are trying to contain a wildfire that spread overnight near a small village on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Authorities in Haute-Corse, the prefecture covering the northern part of the island, said strong winds fed 20 wildfires that started in several places on Saturday. More than 1,500 acres were burnt near the town of Calenzana but no damage was caused to houses and no serious injuries have been reported.
The Gell river fire, west of the Tasmanian capital, has now burned through almost 15,000 hectares of bush but no longer posed an immediate risk to properties, the Tasmania Fire Service said. But residents were warned of a risk of embers from the blaze, burning about 20km northwest of the communities.
The bushfire at Rosedale, in Gippsland suspected to be deliberately lit, ripped through more than 10,000 hectares of scrub and forest before it was brought under control about 2.30am Saturday.
Wildfires – Chile
Dozens of wildfires tore through central Chile destroying scores of homes. Local media reported there were 44 wildfires active on Thursday with at least eight more still burning in the Valparaiso region alone. Valparaiso is a coastal area about 100km northwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago.
Perhaps the hardest hit municipality was Limache, where the mayor said some 60 homes were destroyed.
The O’Higgins region south of Valparaiso was also hard hit. In total, local media reported more than 2,600 hectares have burned.
A spate of wildfires across the Garden Route, which have spread from George to the Karatara area, claimed the lives of at least eight people – including a newborn baby and its mother, two children and a toddler – on Monday, and led to the evacuation of hundreds of people.
The Tepee Fire grew to 1,592 acres Friday night, fueled by strong winds. A fire line was established around 60 percent of the blaze, mostly on the western side..
The Willow Fire is estimated at 300 acres, burning south of Pelton Dam and Willow Canyon, about six miles northwest of Madras. Air tankers and a heavy helicopter have been assisting firefighters on the ground. The Willow Fire is now 20 percent contained.
Wildfires – Montana, USA
The Boundary wildfire burning in Montana’s Glacier National Park spilled over into Canada on Friday. Dry and windy conditions flared up fire activity on the blaze at about 3 p.m.
The wildfire then jumped the border into Alberta, burning most of the basin on the southwest-facing slope of Mount Richards and the south- and east-facing slopes of Mount Alderson. The entire wildfire, now burning in the Boundary Creek Valley, Glacier National Park and Water Lakes National Park, is estimated to be 1,100 hectares in size and is considered “out of control.”
Three fires in Rice County are about 70-percent contained but high winds continue to be a problem for crews fighting the fires.
Between seven and eight thousand acres have burned in the fires. One unoccupied home and several outbuildings were also destroyed. At least four Black Hawk helicopters were used to help gain control of the fire.
While the fire is mostly contained, dangerous conditions continue through Friday.
The Big Cypress National Preserve brush fire continues to burn. Meanwhile the massive Faka Union brush fire is burning in the Picayune Strand State Forest. At last check, the nearly 10,500 acre fire is now 95% contained.
The Stateline Fire burning in Union County, north of Clayton, New Mexico, is currently estimated at 21,253 acres, of which 7,160 acres has crossed over into Colorado. The fire started Thursday morning March 8 on private property in New Mexico. There is no immediate threat to structures at this time.
Wildfires – Florida, USA
Saturday’s rains did little to stop the Big Cypress National Preserve brush fire, which has grown to 3,019 acres, closing trails and campgrounds, the National Park Service reported Sunday.
Around 50 fires have been reported across Kansas with high winds and dry conditions on Monday and Tuesday. Crews on Wednesday were still working on a number of fires, and most of them were in some level of containment. The fires have burned more than 25,000 acres. Weather conditions were improving with increased humidity and decreasing winds, but grass is still very dry and people are urged to continue using caution with any sources of fire.