Department releases data on threatened species in the path of the bushfires

20 January 2020

(Issued by Department of the Environment and Energy)

The Department of the Environment and Energy has released an initial list of threatened and migratory species which have more than 10 per cent of their known or predicted distribution in areas affected by bushfires in southern and eastern Australia in recent months. This provides an early indication of the extent to which Australia’s threatened animals and plants may have been impacted by these devastating bushfires.

The data published on the Department’s website indicates that there are 49 nationally listed threatened species that have had more than 80 per cent of their likely or known distribution within the fire extent and a further 65 listed threatened species that may have had more than half of their range affected.

The threatened species in the path of the fires include 272 plant, 16 mammal, 14 frog, nine bird, seven reptile, four insect, four fish and one spider species. An additional four listed migratory bird species which are not listed as threatened were also identified.

Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box said that these results are indicative only and are just the first step in understanding the potential impacts of the bushfires.

“Some species are more vulnerable to fire than others and some areas were more severely burnt than others, so further analysis will be needed before we can fully assess the impact of the fires on the ground,” Dr Box said.

“Department scientists and officials are working with states and territories, scientific experts and the new Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel to improve the mapping and determine the likely response of species to fire.”

“This will help to refine the list of plants and animals of greatest concern. Already, we are seeing positive examples of threatened species having survived the fires. We know that the Wollemi Pine occurs within the extent of the bushfires, but we have heard the wonderful news that firefighters and park managers were able to save these dinosaur trees.”

Dr Box said that this early analysis and the work that will follow will help guide priority actions under the Australian Government’s $50 million Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Package, to prevent extinction and begin the process of recovery.

The Department’s analysis compared maps of fire extent from state fire agencies from 1 August 2019 to 13 January 2020 with maps of the modelled distributions of species protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The species distribution maps include areas where listed species are known to occur, or are predicted to occur based on their habitat preferences. The analysis covers bioregions that have been impacted by fires in south-west Western Australia, southern South Australia, Victoria, southern and eastern New South Wales, south-eastern Queensland and Tasmania.

Many species not currently listed as threatened will have had much of their range affected by the fires and, in some cases that impact may mean that these species have become threatened. The Department will be considering assessments of these species in the near future.

For further information about the analysis visit the Department’s website: https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/research-and-resource