Australia’s devastating bushfire crisis has burned at least 80% of the Blue Mountains world heritage area and more than 50% of the Gondwana world heritage rainforests. The damage is so extensive that it may affect the diversity of Blue Mountains eucalyptus, which earns its position on the World Heritage List, said John Merson, the executive director of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.
“The eucalyptus can be very badly reduced in diversity if fires come through in too short and intense intervals. Their numbers will virtually collapse,” he stated. Australia has been ravaged by a series of bushfires that occurred amid record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought in the country.
As per a report published in December, 20% of the Blue Mountains world heritage area had been destroyed by the first week of December, and another 60% has burned so far. “This is totally, totally unique. As everybody keeps saying, it’s unprecedented,” he said.
The World Heritage-listed area, Greater Blue Mountains, covers a million hectares of national park and bushland filled with rare plants and animals, supporting an exceptional biodiversity. The area is also identified as a natural laboratory for studying the evolution of the eucalyptus.
“We had a very large fire in 2013. It’s only six years after that,” John Merson said.
“The eucalyptus can be very badly reduced in diversity if fires come through in too short and intense intervals. Their numbers will virtually collapse,” he added.
He further informed that the overall impact on tree species and wildlife couldn’t be known until more assessments were done as fire grounds became accessible. Experts have expressed fear over the effects of the blazes on the local ecosystem and native animals, including the brush-tailed rock-wallaby and spotted-tail quoll.
The fires have also devastated 50% of the Gondwana rainforest that is sprawling over 366,500 hectares across NSW and Queensland. It was listed as World Heritage in 1986 because of its diversity of species, and unique landforms.
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment said, “Analysis will improve as the forests become safe to enter and the smoke clears, enabling accurate satellite and aerial imagery to help guide our assessment and on work on ground.”
Australia is continuously fighting against the unprecedented blazes that erupted this year, damaging nearly 3,000 homes. The large, intense fires have threatened the life of 800 million animals in New South Wales. Climate scientists are considering climate change as the main reason.