Hundreds of species at risk of extinction after Australia's Black Summer bushfires

May 27, 2020

By SBS Australia

Hundreds of animal and plant species have been impacted by Australia's devastating Black Summer bushfires, with some now at increased risk of extinction because of the ecological disaster.

More than 300 nationally-listed threatened species were in the path of the fires, the bushfires royal commission has been told.

"The impact of the 2019-20 bushfires on threatened species and other flora and fauna has been severe," Commonwealth threatened species commissioner Dr Sally Box told the inquiry on Wednesday.

An expert advisory panel has labelled the bushfires an ecological disaster.



RFS volunteers and NSW Fire and Rescue officers fight a bushfire south of Sydney.

Bushfire haze killed 455 people and reached 80 per cent of Australia, royal commission hears


"The fires covered an unusually large area and in many places they burnt with an unusually high intensity," Dr Box said.

"The entire known range of some species was burnt."

More than 1,800 animals and plant species and ecological communities are listed as threatened nationally.

Of the total, 327 threatened species were in the path of the fire, 49 had more than 80 per cent of their habitat burnt and a further 65 had more than half of their known or likely range in the fire area.

It includes plants, mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles, fish and invertebrates.


Many parts of Australia are still recovering from one of the worst bushfire seasons on record.

Many parts of Australia are still recovering from one of the worst bushfire seasons on record.



"So for some species that were considered threatened before the fires, the fires have now likely increased their risk of extinction," Dr Box said.

"But there are also many other fire-affected species that were considered secure before the fires, who have now lost much of their habitat and might be imperilled."

Dr Box said the expert panel, which considered both threatened and non-threatened species across a range of taxa, had so far identified more than 750 taxa that are in need of urgent management intervention.

She said a large number of species will be considered for listing as threatened under the act, possibly numbering in the hundreds.

"There certainly are hundreds that have been impacted by the fires and need help."

Fire chiefs 'gagged' on climate

A former NSW fire boss believes serving fire chiefs are being "gagged" from voicing their views on climate change for political reasons.

Greg Mullins, representing Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, told the inquiry on Wednesday that he hopes the climate wars end.

He says the ELCA group chased meetings with Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year before the deadly bushfire season to brief him on climate change risks.

Mr Mullins says he and the other members held their tongues while in their roles.

"I know from my own experience and other members of ELCA, in a sense we self-censored because we knew what would be acceptable and what would not, to certain political masters," he said on Wednesday.

"And if you went outside those bounds, life could be made very unpleasant for you."

Liberal senator James Paterson then asked: "So do you think the fire chiefs are gagged in some way?"

"Yes," Mr Mullins replied.

The former fire boss believes it's dangerous for policy not to acknowledge the risks of climate change.

"I think the fires may have woken some people up - it should have."

The post about “Hundreds of species at risk of extinction after Australia's Black Summer bushfires" first appeared on the SBS Australia website.


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