Australia bush fires are no longer unexpected events. Data shows that they are becoming more frequent.
26 May 2020
Researchers in Australia have, for the first time, mapped out the extent of wildfires in the state of Victoria which have taken place between 1995 and 2020. The results indicate that the state is experiencing larger fires on a more frequent basis.
Professor David Lindenmayer, co-author of the study which is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America said the findings indicated that a major overhaul is needed when it comes to fire and land management.
‘This is the first time we’ve seen the full spatial extent of bushfires dating back 25 years,’ Professor Lindenmayer said. ‘What we have found is that the state is burning more and more. Prior to 2000 we had one mega-fire in Victoria in 150 years of records. Since 2000 we’ve already had three.’
The fires of 2019-2020 burned some 1.5 million hectares in Victoria, which Professor Lindenmayer pointed out was the largest area impacted by wildfires in Victoria since 1939, when 3.4 million hectares was devastated.
‘Of the 1.5 million hectares burned during the 2019-2020 fire season, more than 600 000 hectares have burned twice, and more than 112 000 hectares have burned three times over the past 25 years.’ Professor Lindenmayer said.’
Researchers warn that if changes are not made to fire, resource and conservation policies, vital ecosystems and livelihoods will be at risk. The most recent bushfires have had a huge impact on timber production, with extensive quantities of timber resources burned. Proposals to shift logging into areas not been impacted; have been met with alarm ‘Those unburned areas are too important for conserving biodiversity,’ Professor Lindenmayer said.
While the study focused on Victoria, researchers say that their findings could apply to other areas of Australia and overseas.