CIE Spotlight: Fanning the flames of Australian wildfires (Correspondence in Nature)

Tim D.

Tim D.

Title: Government cuts: Fanning the flames of Australian wildfires (PDF)

Authors: Tim S. Doherty and Martine Maron

Source: Nature 531, 580, March 2016

Correspondence: Climate change will increase the frequency, intensity and scale of Australian bushfires, at huge cost to its population and unique biota. Yet the government-funded science agency, CSIRO, plans to cut at least 100 jobs in climate research.

Australia urgently needs political leadership on climate action and investment in climate science.

Bush fire at Captain Creek, central Queensland, AU by Wikimedia Commons

Bush fire at Captain Creek, central Queensland, AU by Wikimedia Commons

For example, fires last year burned an estimated 90% of the habitat occupied by the critically endangered marsupial Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) and the western ground parrot (Pezoporus flaviventris). The affected areas also contain six other endemic threatened plant and animal species. Their already small and isolated remnant populations are now even more vulnerable. In Victoria alone, 4.3 million hectares of eucalypt forest burned in 2003–14, comparable to the entire area destroyed over the previous 50 years.

Moreover, modelling for southeastern Australia predicts 5–25% increases in fire risk by 2050 compared with 1974–2003.

Australia’s ill-advised reduction of its climate-science capacity will severely compromise its ability to respond to this growing threat.