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Wildfire recovery efforts in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in Australia
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed Australia’s focus, but it hasn’t changed the fact that flora, fauna and whole ecosystems are still struggling to recover from the summer wildfires. Since September 2019, more than 12 million hectares of forest have been destroyed – which is about one-third the size of Germany. In recent weeks, the rain helped defuse the situation, but at the same time caused flooding.
As environmental protection makes for one of the Foundation’s objectives, the Management Board decided to contribute a one-off grant to the wildfire recovery programme of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute in Australia in the midst of the crisis at the start of 2020. The funding aims to repair the damage caused by recent fires to flora and fauna in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area and expand the Institute’s Climate Change Monitoring program to better understand the impacts of the recent fires on the World Heritage area, of which more than 800,000 hectares (80%) are affected.
Data gathered during bushfire recovery is vital for assessing landscape impacts, effects on wildlife populations and vegetation, and changes across whole ecosystems. This helps direct recovery efforts, but also underpins our preparedness for future bushfire management. Dr John Merson, Executive Director of the Institute, is working with local experts to introduce fieldwork processes that follow distancing guidelines while still enabling the efficient capture of data.
“Nature is slowly but surely recovering from the devastating fires and floods, but many species will be struggling. Much like testing is paramount to understanding the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to monitor the environment to gather as much information as possible to understand the impacts of more extreme fires and weather conditions driven by climate change.”
The Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute is an independent, not-for-profit Institute based in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of Australia. The team conducts research, collaborates worldwide and engages with communities to develop innovative strategies for conservation and sustainability.