Wired discusses the consequences of Australia’s bushfires. Scientists calculate that the unprecedented wildfires burned 37,500 square miles. For already endangered species, the conflagration may have spelled doom.
AUSTRALIA’S APOCALYPTIC BUSHFIRES earlier this year weren’t just unprecedented in their scale and ferocity—they weren’t even supposed to be possible yet. Over the past 20 years, the average percentage of Australia’s “temperate broadleaf and mixed” forests—lots of eucalyptus, basically—that burned each year was 1 percent. During the 2019-2020 fire season, that figure was 21 percent, the kind of catastrophe that models didn’t predict climate change could spawn until the next century.
Scientists could only watch in horror as walls of flame virtually obliterated whole ecosystems. Now, they’re beginning to take stock of which wildlife species—so many of them native only to Australia—the continent may have lost. Writing today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, two dozen researchers drop some startling initial numbers about the toll.