Home Academic/Student Lifecycle Six million hectares of threatened species habitat up in smoke

Six million hectares of threatened species habitat up in smoke

More than one billion mammals, birds, and reptiles across eastern Australia are estimated to have been affected by the current fire catastrophe.

Many animals and plants have been incinerated or suffocated by smoke and ash. Others may have escaped the blaze only to die of exhaustion or starvation, or be picked off by predators.



But even these huge losses of individual animals and plants do not reveal the full scale of impact that the recent fires have had on biodiversity.

Plants, invertebrates, freshwater fish, and frogs have also been affected, and the impact of the fires is likely to be disproportionately greater for threatened species.


Read more: A season in hell: bushfires push at least 20 threatened species closer to extinction


To delve deeper into the conservation impact, we used publicly available satellite imagery to look at the burnt areas (up to January 7, 2020) and see how they overlapped with the approximate distributions of all the threatened animals and plants listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

We restricted our analysis to the mediterranean and temperate zone of south-east and south-west Australia.

The bad news

We found that 99% of the area burned in the current fires contains potential habitat for at least one nationally listed threatened species. We conservatively estimate that six million hectares of threatened species habitat has been burned.


This story was written by Jim Radford, Aaron Greenville, Michelle Ward, April Reside, Ayesha Tulloch, Brooke Williams, Emily Massingham, Helen Mayfield, Hugh Possingham, James Watson and Laura Sonter, and originally published on The Conversation.

Most Popular

4 tips to get your study brain back

It’s time to dust off your books and laptop, because Uni is back! “How do I get back...

Shepparton Festival is back again – and your La Trobe campus is playing a key part

You know it and love it. The Shepparton Festival is a stalwart of the Goulburn Valley events calendar.

Bendigo / Clear your diaries! The BSA has your O-Week social calendar sorted

Orientation might be for learning about your course and your campus. But it's also about meeting people and having...

International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Spotlighting PhD candidate Guneet Bindra

You’ve seen the headlines before. Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise. Almost 140,000 Australians...

Student Partnerships: Have your voice heard

Are you a student that's involved in leadership or community life at La Trobe? Do you have on-the-ground suggestions...