Australia’s devastating bushfire season comes to an end

Unprecedented damage in NSW as Canberra’s urban forest is threatened by extreme heat and drought.

Australia Bush fires AP
A firefighter manages a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby [Rick Rycroft/AP]

March 31 marks the end of the 2019-20 bushfire season across southern and eastern Australia, bringing to an end the country’s most devastating season on record.

Weatherzone, an Australian meteorological provider, said the destruction caused by the fires was unprecedented.

Bush and grass fires scorched 5.5 million hectares of land in New South Wales (NSW) alone, blackening an area that accounts for more than six percent of the state.

Within the southeastern state, fire destroyed a total of 2,448 homes and claimed 25 lives, including three NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers and three US firefighters. These numbers were unrivalled in the state’s history.

Elsewhere, around the capital of Australia, Canberra, trees are dying in their thousands with more marked for removal by the day.

Years of below-average rainfall and record heat have put the city’s urban forest under stress.

“Fully mature, 50-plus-year-old trees, that are more dead than alive from lack of water, and just the really stressful environment,” horticulturist Scott Burns was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

With recent rainfall coming too late for many, local officials have decided to splash out on a rescue package.

“We’ve identified 6,000 mature street trees that we need to focus on with extra watering, but also mulching,” City Services Minister Chris Steel said, according to the AP.

That is on top of 22,000 trees already being hand-watered.

But Burns, the horticulturist, said the moves came “too late”.

“I think it’s fantastic that they’ve put this initiative in, bit disappointing that it’s happened way after the event,” he said.

According to new Australian National University research, there is also a need to rethink what species are planted as the climate changes. 

Around “28 percent of our current tree species are unsuitable for the conditions that we will be experiencing over the next few decades,” Steel said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies