After The Devastating Fires, Can Australia's Forests Bounce Back?

Going north of the Australian state of New South Wales would bring you to some of the world’s most ancient rainforests, which have already been flourishing since the time of the giant dinosaurs. Continually wet and evergreen, these rainforests are now home to some of the world’s evolutionarily unique plants and animals.

At least, they used to.

This is because last year, the country experienced its hottest and driest year in over 120 years, which then led to unprecedented fires ravaging around 11 million hectares of land, even reaching some strongholds in eastern Australia that have never faced fires before, despite the country being commonly dry. Unfortunately, a majority of the rainforests were ravaged as well, with more than 50 percent of the vast area that makes up the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area going up in flames during those fiery, torturous months. As such, animals and plants are sorely affected, per numerous reports.

“There’s now concern about the long-term viability of these globally significant forests,” Mark Graham, an ecologist at the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, said.

So the question begs, can Australia’s lustrous rainforest recover from this fiery disaster? Well, even experts are waiting for answers as well.

“We are in uncharted territory. We haven’t had fires so early in the season and covering such large areas before. We’ve had ecosystems that haven’t burned in living memory going up, so how they are going to respond is anybody’s guess,” Richard Hobbs, an ecologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, said.

Furthermore, a lot of the trees in the rainforests also take anywhere between 500 to 1,000 years to mature, meaning full recovery won’t happen until after our life spans. Of course, regeneration will start, albeit harder because the larger trees that make up the canopy are now gone, severely affecting the ecosystem.

Thankfully, some of the rain has now returned, which means some of the places are already starting to see regrowth. The problem, however, might be that some dry forests would give way to trees that are a lot flammable, while seeds that actually rely on fire would quickly run out due to continuous fires.

Some effort is being made, although experts said that the best thing to do is to leave the forests to recover on their own while making sure no illegal activities are present.

In the end, only time will tell what kind of recovery the forests can make. Hopefully, it’s of the greener kind.

rainforest-78516_960_720 Scientists recently discovered an ancient forest that's been underwater for the last 60,000 years. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)