In DepthConservation Biology

Australia's vulnerable species hit hard by fires

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Science  20 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6472, pp. 1427-1428
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6472.1427

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Fire season has come early to Australia, and massive blazes have already burned 3 million hectares across the eastern part of the country. As a result, researchers say many plant and animal species are facing potentially catastrophic losses. At particular risk are species with limited ranges and small populations. The blazes have hit both arid, fire-prone ecosystems and typically fireproof wetlands and rainforests. Some scientists have even watched in horror as the automated camera traps they use to monitor wildlife instead have captured flames reducing their study sites to ash. Worse news may be coming: Peak summer fire season still has 2 months to go, and the already parched region is bracing for another heat wave. "There's little question that threatened species are going to be affected; even common species are being pushed towards becoming vulnerable by the size of these fires," says Euan Ritchie, an ecologist at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

  • * John Pickrell is a journalist in Sydney, Australia.

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