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Source: Australian Department of the Environment and Energy

Protected species in bushfire affected areas

On Monday 20 January 2020, the Department released an initial list of threatened and migratory species which have more than 10% of their known or predicted distribution in areas affected by bushfires in southern and eastern Australia from 1 August 2019 and 13 January 2020.

Preliminary results indicate that:

  • 49 listed threatened species have more than 80% of their modelled likely or known distribution within the fire extent
  • 65 listed threatened species have more than 50%, but less than 80%, of their modelled likely or known distribution within the fire extent
  • 77 listed threatened species have more than 30%, but less than 50%, of their modelled likely or known distribution within the fire extent
  • 136 listed threatened species and 4 listed migratory species have more than 10%, but less than 30%, of their modelled likely or known distribution within the fire extent.

The threatened species 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 are not listed as threatened.

The threatened species are currently listed as Critically Endangered (31 species), Endangered (110 species) and Vulnerable (186 species) under national environmental law. The listing status of some of these species may need to be reviewed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee once the impacts of the fires are better understood.

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About the data

This analysis compares maps of fire extent from state fire agencies 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. The analysis area may be refined in future updates. Further information about the analysis is included in the spreadsheet.

These initial 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. Some areas were more severely burnt than others. For example, the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis occurs within the extent of the bushfires and appears in this dataset, but the Department has received reports that the pines were successfully protected from fire. Some species which were not in the path of the fires have been removed from the results, based on advice from state agencies. Further updates will be made to incorporate local and expert knowledge.

The Department is working with states and territories and scientific experts to improve the mapping and determine the likely response of these and other species to fire and understand critical knowledge gaps. This will help to refine the list of species of greatest concern, to guide decisions about emergency intervention to help with the immediate survival of affected animals, plants and ecological communities. Once it is safe to enter fire-affected areas, it may be possible to more accurately assess the severity of the fires and the impacts on individual species. Fires are continuing to burn in parts of Australia and the fire extent mapping will be continue to be updated. New information will feed into future updates. 

Many species not currently listed under national environmental law 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.

Please note: This analysis only covers the koala populations of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory which are listed as Vulnerable under national environment law, not those in South Australia and Victoria which are not listed.

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