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Bushfires this season have left an estimated 1 billion dead animals in their wake, their carcasses dotting the blackened landscape.
Adding to the toll, farmers are being forced to euthanize injured and starving livestock and there are also calls to cull feral animals in fire-affected areas, including by aerial shooting.
Carcasses - Biosecurity - Threat - Defence - Force
The carcasses have already been flagged as a potential biosecurity threat, and the Australian Defence Force is tasked with collecting and burying the dead in mass graves.
There's logic in this. Carcasses can harbor nasty diseases such as botulism that threaten human, livestock and wildlife health. They also provide food for invasive pests like feral cats and red foxes.
Carcasses - Role - Landscapes - Fire - Nutrients
But carcasses can play a positive role as landscapes recover from fire, providing rich nutrients for other native animal, microbial and plant species.
The Morrison Government has announced a A$50 million package to help wildlife and habitat recover from the fires, and yesterday met leading wildlife experts and environment groups to get advice on the recovery process.
Process - Carcass - Disposal - Carcasses - Roles
We suggest this process should examine carcass disposal methods other than burial, such as composting—effectively "recycling" the dead. It should also involve monitoring the carcasses that remain to understand both their positive and negative roles in fire-ravaged areas.
Carcasses feed a range of native animals, including goannas, wedge-tailed eagles and dingoes. Post-fire, they can provide an alternative source of food for struggling native predators and pollinators. And feeding hungry predators with carcasses could redirect them away from vulnerable prey.
Carcasses - Insects - Flies - Ants - Beetles
Carcasses also feed insects such as flies, ants, beetles, and their larvae, and support important ecological processes such as pollination.
As they decompose, nutrients leach from carcasses into the surrounding environment and create "halos" of greenery in the landscape, where vegetation thrives around carcass sites. Their influence on soil and plant communities can last for years.
Carcasses - Home - Help
Carcasses are home to bacteria that help break down...
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