Wildfires devastate Tasmania's natural heritage

A series of bushfires in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) have destroyed large sections of iconic forest, which ecologists say will never recover.

The fires, sparked by lightning storms, have burned large areas of northwestern Tasmania, reducing more than 1,050sq km (405sq m) of protected forest to an ash-filled wasteland. Many of the blazes have destroyed entire ecosystems dating back 180 million years, with trees as old as 1,000 years reduced to cinders.

Global warming has been blamed for the events, with dry lightning strikes – storms in which rain evaporates before hitting the ground – having previously been extremely rare. 2015 was one of the driest years on record for Tasmania, with usually damp rainforests failing to act as firebreaks, leading to the vast destruction.

The fires have destroyed around two per cent of the TWWHA, which if similar events continue to occur in the coming years, could mean catastrophe for one of the world’s largest natural attractions in the years to come.

The Tasmania Fire Service is currently monitoring or tackling more than 80 fires across the country, most in difficult terrain, with fire crews across the state focusing on containing the fires that are burning in large areas.

Tasmania recently earned success at the Australian Tourism Awards on 5 February, while the government is determined to open up the area for development and increase the state's visitor numbers to 1.5 million a year by 2020.

The state has said the change will be limited to sensible development in small areas, but conservationists have argued the new plan will enable big incursions to the area in the form of roads, visitor attractions and major hotels. It is not expected that the recent fires will change that policy, but experts are calling on both the state and the Commonwealth to establish and fund an inquiry into future prevention, which is expected to be discussed on 22 February when Australia’s Senate meets.

Tasmania  Bushfires  Australia  Wildfire  dry lightning  UNESCO  natural heritage 
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A series of bushfires in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) have destroyed large sections of iconic forest, which ecologists say will never recover. The fires, sparked by lightning storms, have burned large areas of northwestern Tasmania, reducing more than 1,050sq km (405sq m) of protected forest to an ash-filled wasteland. Many of the blazes have destroyed entire ecosystems dating back 180 million years, with trees as old as 1,000
Large swathes of Tasmanian forest have been reduced to ash /
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