Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
Fire damaged trees release epicormic sprouts along their trunks and branches that allow the tree to continue to photosynthesize and live. Image: Nathan Rott/NPR
In 2019 and 2020, about 20% of Australia’s burned during the country’s unprecedented wildfires. A proportion, that The Guardian noted, scientists believe is unprecedented globally. In fact, ancient forests that have previously survived geographic upheavals were feared to have been irrevocably damaged.
However, new insight from ecologists in Australia is showing that many of these forests are starting to recover–a trend that will hopefully continue.
The Good and the Bad: Australia has numerous types of forests that respond to wildfires in very different ways. As Science News explained,
“Some of the world’s most ancient rainforests lie in the north of the Australian state of New South Wales. Continually wet since the time of the dinosaurs, these forests once covered the supercontinent Gondwana. Today, vestiges harbor many endemic and evolutionarily unique plants and animals.”
Typically moist, these environments don’t burn. But unprecedented fires have now ravaged more than 11 million hectares in eastern Australia, penetrating these strongholds that rarely, if ever, faced fires before.
Dominating much of South Eastern Australia, eucalypt forests were severely affected by the recent wildfires. As WWF explained,
The quintessential Australian genus, Eucalyptus dominates in all better-watered regions of Australia, including the Southeast Australia Temperate Forests. There are approximately 700 species of Eucalyptus, and only seven are found outside Australia (Berra 1998). Unlike the rest of mainland Australia, soils here are moderately fertile with a cool temperate climate.
As Live Science noted, like many plants native to fire-prone regions, eucalyptus trees (aka gum trees in Australia) are adapted to survive — or even thrive — in a wildfire. However massive, climate-fueled wildfires are pushing the limits of these hardy ecosystems. The trees that have observed to be recovering are from these eucalypt forests.
What The Good News Means:As NPR reported, the burst of regrowth is a sign that despite a months’ long assault of flame and smoke, the second-hottest summer on record and a multi-year drought, that Australia’s nature “is doing it’s thing.”
This cycle of fire, rain and recovery has played out in Australia for millennia.
The majority of the country’s forests are uniquely adapted to fire. Some species need it. “Australia is, more than any other, a fire continent,” writes ecologist and historian Stephen Pyne in his book “World Fire.”
Why This Matters: Nature is resilient, but we’re witnessing in ecosystems throughout the world that humans are pushing them to their brink. Regrowth in Australia’s forests is certainly a welcome sign but also a reminder that with the next wildfire, we may not be so lucky.
As wildfires across the West continue to rage, President Trump has continued to push the message that the cause of the fires is solely due to poor forest management. It’s not a new message for Republicans, but science unequivocally points to the ways in which climate change is supercharging wildfires. Ezra Romero, an environmental reporter […]
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer As Stefanie Glinski reported for the Thomson Reuters Foundation this week, large-scale deforestation in Afghanistan, due primarily to the past 40 years of war, has advanced flooding in the country (as trees prevent soil erosion and serve as a buffer against flooding). According to Glinski, “Trees have long been […]
Why This Matters: The Tongass is the largest national forest and one of the most important forests in the world (as the Ag Department itself says – watch the video) because it contains some of the last surviving old-growth temperate rainforests in North America and is home to numerous species of endangered wildlife and is very important to several native tribes.
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.