Changes in fire activity are putting more than 4,400 species at risk of extinction, according to a paper published in the journal Science.
According to the study, the total landmass burned by wildfires reached record levels in the past 12 months.
For example, the total area burnt in the eastern seaboard of Australia between August 2019 – March 2020 was 12.6 million hectares, this was unprecedented in scale.
The researchers have identified three main groups of human drivers which are leading to increased fire activity, these are global climate change, changes in land-use and biotic invasions.
As a result, 19% of birds, 16% of mammals and 19% of legumes are now at risk of extinction.
Leah author of the study, Dr Luke Kelly from the University of Melbourne said: ‘Recent fires have burned ecosystems where wildfires have historically been rare or absent.
‘Very large and severe fires have also been observed in areas with a long history of recurrent fire, and this is consistent with observations of longer fire seasons and predictions of increased wildfire activity in the forests and shrublands of Australia, southern Europe and the western United States.’
Professor Kate Parr from the University of Liverpool added: ‘Human activities are changing the way our world works, altered fire regimes are threatening species across the globe with extinction. We urgently need to rethink approaches to managing landscapes and fire and think creatively about novel solutions.
‘It really is time for new, bolder conservation initiatives.
‘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.’
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