Record U.S. and Australian fires raise fears for many species

Record U.S. and Australian fires raise fears for many species

Summary

For the past 3 months, Australian researchers have been searching for endangered spiders and other animals whose habitats have been incinerated by record fires in that country. They are not alone. Intense wildfires around the globe are inflicting lasting damage on species and ecosystems. The worst fires in more than 70 years have already burned some 2 million hectares in California, Oregon, and Washington this year. In 2019, more than 11 million hectares burned in Australia. What makes these fires so worrisome is that climate change threatens to lead to more intense and more frequent blazes. Thus, even though many places had been adapted to survive fires in the past, longer term consequences for ecosystems are now harder to predict, researchers say. Warmer, drier conditions could make it harder for forests and other places to recover, and they may be instead be replaced by invasive grasses or shrubs.

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