World News – AU – ‘Catastrophic’ bushfire burns half of Queensland’s Fraser Island, threatening ecological disaster

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The fire on the largest sand island in the world, also known as K’gari, has been burning for six weeks and encroaching on areas with 1. 000 year old trees

A bush fire has burned down on half of the world heritage island of K’gari / Fraser – the world’s largest sand island off the Australian coast of Queensland – with potentially catastrophic consequences for their habitats and wildlife.

The fire, which has been blazing for more than six weeks, threatens large tourist and rainforest areas after it burned much of the north of the island.

On Tuesday the fire burned on two fronts and drove south towards the Kingfisher Bay tourist resort where 80 employees were asked to prepare for the evacuation.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Services told the Guardian Tuesday that the fire had entered the island’s famous Valley of the Giants – home to trees older than Jan.. 000 years are.

K’gari is known for its breathtaking 250 km of beaches, freshwater lakes, lush rainforests, and sand dunes over 200 m high.

The fire started in mid-October after an illegal campfire and has been at 81 since then. 000 hectares burned down. .

QFES deputy commissioner Gary McCormack said much of the fire fighting was an « air strike » in which planes and helicopters dropped salt water and fresh water on the blazing canopy.

He said there is no chance to put the fire out in the current conditions, but the focus is on keeping the fire out of tourist areas, environmentally important places, and places that are important to the Butchulla Aboriginal people who have been around for thousands living on the island for years.

Currently there are more than 30 crews on K’gari (Fraser Island), made up of employees from QFES, QPWS & Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation. The composition of the sand island makes our work difficult. & We share the concerns of the communities, but we will continue to work to minimize the impact. image. Twitter. com / fDieIDRpKU

Fighting fires on a sand island is a challenge because the tracks are too narrow to be used as a fire breakout, are only accessible to smaller 4WD fire engines, and the sandy forest floor would cause water to drain quickly from aircraft would.

“We work with the modeling of the fire behavior in order to manipulate and push the fire as well as possible away from the community, the infrastructure and from sensitive cultural and environmental sites. ”

He said the fire was invading the Valley of the Giants, but there was hope that trees might survive as the fire was less intense in that area.

This is a very big and very hot fire for this island. It’s a big fire and it’s the wrong kind of fire

He had been warned by the Queensland Government Park Service, who also helped fight the fire, that tree species in the valley could handle a fire.

Wind conditions and temperatures above 30 ° C made it difficult to fight the fire and the prospects for the next four days were unfavorable without rain being predicted.

Dr. Gabriel Conroy, a University of the Sunshine Coast conservation biologist whose research has focused on the island, brought a group of students to K’Gari last week.

« A north wind had come up and it was beyond the world and ashes fell on the students, » he said. « There is panic on the island.

« We went north and went through areas where the fire had been. Walking through a scorched landscape is pretty sobering. It’s massive. ”

He said 128 years of logging, ending in 1991, had changed the island’s ecology and the presence of Europeans suppressed the traditional butchulla burning. All of this changed the behavior of the fire.

Conroy said the island had seen fires for thousands of years, but those fires would have been less widespread and intense because the Butchulla started smaller fires to prevent larger ones.

He said, “This is a very big and very hot fire for this island. It’s a big fire and it’s the wrong kind of fire.

« It’s a disaster. Even ecosystems that are supposed to burn do not recover from widespread hot fires. It can be beyond their ability to recover. ”

He said the island’s wildlife, which includes dingoes, potoroos, wallabies, and an array of birds, lived and would suffer in heathland, coastal dunes, and rainforests.

He said the area around and around the Valley of the Giants was still home to some large Satinay trees. The island’s Satinay trees were used to build the Suez Canal and rebuild the London docks after World War II.

The island was described as « Paradise » by Prince Harry in October 2018 during a visit to Meaghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Today the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited beautiful K’gari – or Fraser Island – as part of the site’s dedication to the Queen’s Commonwealth canopy. #RoyalVisitAustralia image. Twitter. com / P5bzrJUiPW

Prof. Patrick Moss, an ancient ecology expert at the University of Queensland who has researched the island, said much of the vegetation on the island is « fire-adapted, » meaning it could recover over time.

But he said he was concerned about the rainforest areas where trees like kauri pines are not good for fire.

« This could have a dramatic impact on the forest and potentially kill trees. You don’t want those high intensity burns to get in there as it would have a dramatic impact on the landscape. ”

He said man-made climate change, as well as logging and changes in the way fires are handled, were likely to play a role in the fire.

Australia’s weather is currently being influenced by a La Niña climate system that originated in the Pacific and tends to offer cooler and wetter conditions.

In a 2017 World Heritage report, the changing fire regimes and climate change were listed as current and future threats to the island’s ecology.

Dr. Christine Hosking, a conservation biologist also at UQ, said the fires were « ecologically catastrophic » for the island, especially because they would affect the smaller animals and beetles.

Fraser Island, Kingfisher Bay Resort, Australian bushfires

World News – AU – ‘Catastrophic’ bushfire burns half of Queensland’s Fraser Island, threatening ecological disaster

Ref: https://www.theguardian.com

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