Can ecosystems recover from dramatic losses of biodiversity?

phys.org | 7/12/2019 | Staff
nallynally (Posted by) Level 4
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The sheer scale and intensity of the Australian bushfire crisis have led to apocalyptic scenes making the front pages of newspapers the world over. An estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land have burned since 1 July 2019. At least 28 people have died. And over a billion animals are estimated to have been killed to date. Of course, the actual toll will be much higher if major animal groups, such as insects, are included in these estimates.

The impacts of climate change—in particular, the consequences of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events on all life should be abundantly clear. People finally seem to be taking this seriously, but there is an undercurrent of opinion about the "naturalness" of wildfires. Some are still questioning the role of climate change in driving the Australian bushfires.

Parts - World - Benefit - Plants - Animals

It is true that wildfires naturally occur in many parts of the world, and benefit plants and animals in ecosystems that have been uniquely shaped by fire over evolutionary time. And people have been using fire to manage ecosystems for thousands of years. We could learn a thing or two from Aboriginal people and the techniques they have traditionally used to prevent bushfires.

But make no mistake, the scientific evidence shows that human-caused climate change is a key driver of the rapid and unprecedented increases in wildfire activity. What is particularly worrying is the extent to which this is eroding the resilience of ecosystems across wide regions. Yes, it is plausible to expect most plants and animals that have adapted to fire will recover. But the ecological costs of huge, repetitive, high-severity wildfires on ecosystems could be colossal.

World - Disturbance - Wildfires - Severity - World

And it's unclear how much the natural world can tolerate such dramatic disturbance. Wildfires are increasing in severity around the world. The Australian bushfires are larger than some of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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