This year's fire season has brought about unprecedented destruction as wildfires have spread across every Australian state, burning up nearly 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of bush as of January 2020. But the devastation witnessed in the state of New South Wales is nearly unfathomable - 3.6 million hectares (8.8 million acres) have been lost, over 1,500 homes destroyed or damaged, and 24 people have been killed. New South Wales is home to some of the most iconic of Australia's wildlife - koalas, wombats, and kangaroos to name a few - and their habitat is rapidly declining.
AUSTRALIA'S WILDLIFE GRAVELY IMPACTED
One aspect of the bushfires that has caused it to gain so much attention is the impact on wildlife. As many as 480 million animals have been killed in the fires. All animals have their own defense mechanisms when it comes to natural disasters. But now the mechanisms once used have been diminished by previous fires and deforestation.
For example, the devastating effect the bushfires have had on the Koala population. They are a slow moving animal which does not allow them to flee fast enough from the fires. The Koala's defense mechanism is to climb up towards the treetops and curl themselves into a ball until danger passes. While they have adapted and evolved along wildfires, deforestation caused by human development and climate change is affecting the koalas' ability to survive. It is estimated that as many as 8,000 koalas have died from the current bushfires, and the loss of eucalyptus trees and water supply will continue to affect them when the fires are finished. About 30% of their key habitat has been destroyed.
RESTORE WILDLIFE HABITAT
Restoring these areas also means putting wildlife habitats back in tact and creating healthy ecosystems capable of being resilient to climate change, which is critical as these areas are considered to be biodiversity hotspots.
PROTECT NATIVE SPECIES
Reforestation efforts assist native vegetation in growing back, while also improving soil quality, preventing erosion, and controlling invasive species - which can be particularly aggressive after forest fires without intervention.
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