More than 100 Australian plant species destroyed in 2019-20 “Black Summer” bushfires: study

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CANBERRA, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — More than 100 Australian plant species had their all known populations burned during the 2019-20 “Black Summer” bushfires, a study has found.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently published the comprehensive study on the impact of the fires on Australia’s plants.

It found that 816 species had at least half the area they grow destroyed by fires.

More than 150 species of native plants are estimated to have lost 90 percent or more of their ranges.

“All known populations of an estimated 116 species burnt, which is more than double the number of plant species endemic to the British Isles,” the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, said.

Robert Godfree, the lead author of the study, said that close to 8 million hectares of forest, woodland and shrubland were burned in the country’s southeast alone.

“The scale of these fires and the number of plant species and communities affected was unprecedented for the region,” he said in a media release

The study called for targeted recovery efforts to support species left vulnerable by the fires including epiphytic orchids, which grow on other trees other than the ground.

It warned that recent evidence from forested ecosystems globally suggest that catastrophic fire events are increasingly catalysing dramatic changes in species composition across large areas.

“In the most extreme cases tipping points are being reached, resulting in transitions from forest to non-forested vegetation,” the study said.

The researchers compared remotely sensed satellite fire hotspot data with records of plant occurrence from herbarium collections to discover the plant species and ecosystems impacted in the burnt areas, according to CSIRO.

“The scale of the fires also means that recovering populations of even widespread species may need additional assistance to prevent adverse impacts of disease, grazing by feral animals, and drought,” Godfree said. Enditem

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