The biodiversity of australian, in flames

The woman takes off her shirt to wrap the koala, who, disoriented, tries to climb a tree, surrounded by flames. Even in bra, the neighboring Port Macquarie (Aus

The biodiversity of australian, in flames

The woman takes off her shirt to wrap the koala, who, disoriented, tries to climb a tree, surrounded by flames. Even in bra, the neighboring Port Macquarie (Australia) sprayed with a water bottle at the animal, groaning, to extinguish the fire of their legs. The video became viral in November. Since then, the fires in Australia have not ceased. Have burned down to 10.3 million hectares, an area greater than the territory of Portugal. There are 28 fatalities and 2,000 homes killed. Lewis, and christened at the marsupial who had to undergo euthanasia, it is one of the 1,000 millions of animals killed in the fire.

The figure is an estimate by Christopher Dickman, professor in terrestrial ecology at the University of Sydney and former president of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. It is based on a study of animal density of the association ecologist, WWF, 2007. “There is nothing that can compare with this devastation. It is an event that is monstrous,” said Dickman to the radio-us NPR. “Australia has one of the highest rates of extinction of mammals. And events such as this could accelerate the extinction of new species.”

The estimate includes mammals (except bats), birds, and reptiles, and leaves out insects, frogs and other invertebrates. Some experts say the figure could be less because, being a calculation for the density of animals, Dickman does not account for all of those who have managed to escape the fire. Meanwhile, WWF figure at 1,250 million animals affected, including dead, wounded and those who are not going to be able to survive the loss of their habitats.

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In the fire, say the experts, the animals not only die burned to death or suffocated. Those that are buried to save the flames, such as rodents and reptiles, reemergen in devastated areas where they do not find food or where they are an easy prey for their predators. The birds do not have easy to compete with others that already live in the areas to which they have fled. “Even if some species are not affected by the fire, may be indirectly affected by the loss and the rupture of the links and interactions that are vital within the ecosystem,” explains Euan Ritchie, lecturer in ecology of wildlife at the University of Deakin. “For example, plants that survive fire may suffer because their pollinators (insects and bats) are likely to have been decimated,” he adds. In addition, he points out, other problems will arise for the fauna of soil erosion and the pollution of the rivers with the ash of the fire.

This same Monday, the minister australian Environment, Sussan Ley, has announced that the Government will contribute 50 million australian dollars (31 million euros) to help the wildlife damaged by the fire. The priorities of this item will be the care of the injured animals, the protection of threatened species, control of predators and parasites that threaten the most vulnerable species after fires and the protection of areas that have not been burnt for creating "arks" where animals and plants can recover.

In full humanitarian crisis due to fires, thousands of volunteers have turned to help the animals in your environment. Leave food and water at your fingertips or carry in their cars to veterinary hospitals. Some take care of koalas in their homes or rescue pups kangaroo bags, mothers deceased. Associations from all over the world are knitting gloves and cloth bags for the marsupials injured or orphaned.

“In Australia, 80% of the fauna is endemic, not known in another place animals such as the koala, the oposum pygmy mountain or the petauro giant, so that the consequences of its loss are dramatic on a global scale”, explains Diana Colomina, coordinator of forests at WWF Spain, specifying that in the red list of threatened species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Australia, there are 17 that are due to forest fires, and are concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria, the areas most affected by these fires. “It is hard to imagine a worse season of forest fires”, added Ritchie, “in areas of high value for biodiversity, where many species of plants and animals have a risk of imminent extinction, and genuine.”

David Ritter, ceo of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, points out among the species in a more urgent situation the Corroboree frog, the pygmy-possum, mountain-crested cockatoo glossy or the quol tiger. “Due to the fire can be wiped out,” he says. And he adds: “The best way to safeguard the future of species iconic is to limit urban expansion and rapidly reduce emissions, so that the fires do not become catastrophic as this year.” Fires have always been part of the calendar is australian, though never so early or with such magnitude.

A country with 80% of endemic wildlife

A koala in the calcined Kangaroo Island. DAVID MARIUZ EFE

KOALAS. The fires not only pose a threat to koalas because of the risk of dying burnt or suffocated, but that, due to the loss of their habitat, these animals must travel great distances along the ground, at which time they are vulnerable to attack from dingoes, foxes, or to be run over. In addition, a large part of the trees that have burned down are eucalyptus trees, which they feed on. “When the temperatures are above 40 ° c and the weather is dry, the moisture in the sheets decreases, which hampers their ability to find water and may result in their death,” explains David Phalen, professor of Science at the University of Sydney.

The minister for the Environment, australia, Sussan Ley, said Monday that the koalas, which were considered a species "vulnerable", have received "a blow extraordinary," with the fires and that in some areas of the country could be in danger of extinction. The ecologist Euan Ritchie explains that “there are still important populations in areas that have escaped these fires,” so that the species is not in danger. But underlines that it is only on Kangaroo island have died 50,000 copies. According to WWF, the koala bear could disappear in New South Wales (whose capital is Sydney) in 2050, due to deforestation. That State lost in the last 20 years, 25% of their koalas, according to WWF.

A farmer kills a cow that is dying. SEAN DAVEY EFE

CATTLE. Not only the wild life has been decimated by the fires. The livestock industry, which provides to the national economy more than 11,000 million euros, has suffered the loss of 100,000 head of cattle through the fault of the fire, according to estimates of the National Farmers ' Federation. Many farmers have been forced to sacrifice their animals injured by the fire.

Butterflies dead in New south Wales. TRACEY NEARMY REUTERS

THE smallest. insects and arthropods endemic and their habitats are also threatened by the fires ravaging Australia. Some onychophorans (in English, velvet worms, i.e., worms velvety) —organisms that physically resemble caterpillars or slugs with legs— could disappear because of the range hyper of some of its subspecies. Also are vulnerable to some types of grasshoppers, spiders, bees, or butterflies. Australia is one of the 17 nations calls “megadiversas”, a category created by the United Nations Program for the Environment. Together, these countries possess 70% of the planet's biodiversity, but only occupy 10% of the earth's surface. Australia hosts some 250,000 species only of insects.

ENDANGERED SPECIES. Although the most dramatic images of the great fire are the bodies of the iconic kangaroos and koalas, the concern of conservationists is greater for lesser-known species that were already at risk. The fire has devoured more than a third of Kangaroo island, where there are two of them: the cockatoo glossy black (after two decades of work it had managed to increase its population in the area at about 350 individuals) and the small marsupial mouse known as dunnart, so rare that even some of the scientists who study it have never seen one.

Updated Date: 13 January 2020, 09:00

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