SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: May 18, 2020

SNIP: Victoria is experiencing an increasing number of megafires that are threatening some of the state’s most important ecological habitats, a new study in a leading international journal has found.

Many areas had seen multiple bushfires since 1995 at a frequency that was much too high to allow forests time to recover, risking the beginning of ecosystem collapse, the research said.

Areas worst hit by bushfires were native forests used for logging, the research found, with 63% of those areas burned since 1995.

In late 2019 and early 2020, about 1.5m hectares of Victorian forests burned – the largest area since 1939, when 3.4m hectares were hit.

Across the state’s most important areas for forest-dependent threatened species, the analysis found 57% had burned in the most recent fires.

From 1950 to 2002, Victoria had not experienced a year when fire had burned through more than 600,000 hectares.

But since 2003, there had been three “megafire” years when more than 1m hectares of forest had burned.

Some 44% of protected areas had burned from 1995 to present, the study found, compared with 63% of native forests used for logging.

Biomass was left behind during logging operations, and younger regrowth trees also tended to dry out forest areas and create dense zones that were more prone to fire, causing impacts that lasted decades.

The study compared the severity of fires across old-growth, mature and plantation forests, and found that old-growth forests not impacted by logging burned less severely than other areas.