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How Wildfires Affect the Environment

How Wildfires Affect the Environment

It’s impossible to not acknowledge the recent wildfires that have ravaged Australia’s forests. Since July, at least 28 people have died and over 3,000 homes have been damaged. The country is experiencing one of its worst droughts in the last decade, making this season even more dangerous than average.

Globally, the air is warmer than in the past, drawing moisture from the environment and debilitating trees, causing them to be at higher risk of fire. This not only has an effect on humans but on the animal species that are part of the ecosystems affected. Currently, some of the species of animals that have been majorly affected by the Australian fires are:

  • Koalas | These animals move slowly, only able to escape danger by climbing high into eucalyptus trees where they make their homes.
  • Red Kangaroos |These animals are able to escape fires quickly, however, they have a difficult time getting over fencing or other large obstacles.
  • Wombats | Wombats create underground burrows and are great for hiding from flames and heat, but many other animals force this species to flee by seeking shelter in their homes during fires.
  • Gray-headed Flying Fox Bats | These animals are not able to survive the extreme heat, resulting in over 4,000 deaths this season.
  • Brushtail Possums | These animals have survived in the past by seeking shelter in tree hollows, however, as more trees are destroyed each year, they may not have a way to continue protecting themselves in the future.
  • Wallabies | Many wallaby species are having a difficult time finding food in fire zones, causing officials to have to step in to provide food.

Scientists are unsure of the effect a lack of interaction between species can have on an ecosystem until it’s too late. Forest fires also increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which impacts climate change. The chemicals used during firefighting can also have harsh effects on soil, causing lasting damage for years.