In "A Fiery Future - Part 1" conservationist Dailan Pugh described the impact of the current bushfires on rainforest, with particular reference to Terania Creek. Below is a continuation of that post which was published in the CVCC blog on December 4.
As exemplified by Koalas, numerous species have been hit hard. The fires have burnt out 23% of the high quality Koala habitat identified in north-east NSW, including a third of that on public lands. Only small refugia have survived within the burnt areas, and the Koalas are under immense stress in these.
Though the situation is more dire than indicated as much of the highest quality habitat has been degraded by intensive logging, and most of the remaining core populations have now been hit hard by the fires.
The Busby's Flat and Myall Creek fires have burnt out most of the regionally significant Koala populations of the Richmond Lowlands, the Bees Nest and Liberation Trail fires burnt out the most of the nationally significant Koala populations on the Dorrigo plateau, and the Crestwood Drive fire burnt out the major refuge left south of Port Macquarie.
While the rednecks are quick to blame national parks for fires, parks only represent 36% of the burnt area, with private lands 44%, and most of the ignition is likely from humans. Given that logging dries forests, creates fuel and increases the likelihood of canopy fires it is the bigger threat.
There is a belief that we need to burn forests more frequently to reduce fire threat, though it only takes 2-4 years for leaf litter to build up, and in extreme events prescribed burning does little to stop the spread of fire. It is telling that 151,000 ha of the area burnt this year has been burnt in either wildfires or prescribed burns in the past 3 years, with 73,000 ha burnt in the previous 12 months.
As well as affecting rainforest and old growth trees, too frequent burning adversely affects many seed producing shrubs, along with refuges and resources for a variety of fauna.
The protection and expansion of forests are essential to take up and store the carbon we emit if we are to have any chance of limiting the worst of climate heating. As we continue to slash and burn our forests we are increasing their flammability and turning a vital carbon sink into another source of emissions.
We need to undertake a rigorous review of how we manage forests, manipulate fire and protect property if we are to adapt to this brave new world we are creating. Business as usual is an unfolding catastrophe.
- Dailan Pugh