Australia’s 2019–2020 mega-fires were exacerbated by drought, anthropogenic climate change and existing land-use management. Here, using a combination of remotely sensed data and species distribution models, we found these fires burnt ~97,000 km2 of vegetation across southern and eastern Australia, which is considered habitat for 832 species of native vertebrate fauna. Seventy taxa had a substantial proportion (>30%) of habitat impacted; 21 of these were already listed as threatened with extinction. To avoid further species declines, Australia must urgently reassess the extinction vulnerability of fire-impacted species and assist the recovery of populations in both burnt and unburnt areas. Population recovery requires multipronged strategies aimed at ameliorating current and fire-induced threats, including proactively protecting unburnt habitats.
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The code used in this study is freely available at https://figshare.com/s/d9140d7c22e5ebbf2e03.
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We thank S. Legge and C. Pavey for their critical comments on an early version of the manuscript and the Commonwealth Government for providing both species and fire datasets. A.I.T.T. is supported by an ARC DECRA Fellowship.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Ward, M., Tulloch, A.I.T., Radford, J.Q. et al. Impact of 2019–2020 mega-fires on Australian fauna habitat. Nat Ecol Evol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1251-1