More than 4,400 species are at risk from changing fire activity

Changes in fire activity are threatening more than 4,400 species globally. At risk from either too much or too little fire are 19 per cent of birds, 16 per cent of mammals and 17 per cent of dragonflies, says the study from the University of Melbourne.

Changes in fire activity are putting at risk more than 4,400 species across the globe, says a new paper led by the University of Melbourne, involving 27 international researchers.

“Those species include 19 per cent of birds, 16 per cent of mammals, 17 per cent of dragonflies and 19 per cent of legumes that are classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable,” said lead author, Dr Luke Kelly, a Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Centenary Research Fellow, in a statement.

The research found that the species categorized as threatened by an increase in fire frequency or intensity, include the orangutan in Indonesia and mallee emu-wren in Australia.

However, some species and ecosystems are threatened when fire doesn’t occur. Frequent fires, for example, are an important part of African savanna ecosystems and less fire activity can lead to shrub encroachment, which can displace wild herbivores such as wildebeest that prefer open areas.

The researchers identified three main groups of human drivers as transforming fire activity and its impacts of biodiversity: global climate change, land-use and biotic invasions.

“It really is time for new, bolder conservation initiatives,” Dr Kelly said. “Emerging actions include large-scale habitat restoration, reintroductions of mammals that reduce fuels, creation of low-flammability green spaces and letting bushfires burn under the right conditions. The role of people is really important: Indigenous fire stewardship will enhance biodiversity and human well-being in many regions of the world.”

Gemma i Jere, flickr/Creative Commons

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