How the Fires in Australia May Affect the Ocean

How the Fires in Australia May Affect the Ocean

As of today, 480 million animals have died in the fire affecting Australia. These bushfires started in November 2019, during the start of Australia’s summer season. The continent of Australia has suffered greatly from these bushfires, and there are no signs of the fire letting up in the near future. Over 20 people have died, 12 million acres of land burned, and more than 1,000 homes destroyed. Australia experienced record-breaking temperatures in 2019. It was the hottest and driest summer on record, with temperatures reaching 121 degrees Fahrenheit (Esquire). The fires began because of these record-breaking temperatures, and the arid environment caused by global climate change.


What About the Big Blue?

Global climate change has affected the oceans of Australia long before these bushfires. The effects have been extensively studied and unfortunately, there have been numerous accounts of degraded ecosystem health due to the warming ocean temperatures. The health of giant kelp off of the coasts surrounding Australia in Tasmania has plummeted. The ocean’s temperatures have heated to the point of kelp “cooking” down into a slimy, deteriorated condition. In 2015, there were heatwaves between Tasmania and New Zealand that exceeded normal temperatures and affected marine wildlife. This heat wave lasted eight months. Many species moved south into territories they were never previously sighted in order to survive. With the increase of temperature in the waters, invasive species such as long-spined sea urchins migrated into new territories where they took advantage of the warmer temperatures. 


The current bushfires in Australia are decimating terrestrial ecosystems. This includes nearly half a billion animals killed by the fire and an unestimated amount of plant life. The smoke, ashes, and pollution from this fire will inevitably affect marine ecosystems. Marine seabirds have been killed, displaced and suffered from smoke inhalation. Elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus can deposit into the ocean from wildfires and pollute the water. The effects of the fire on oceans are just starting, and will likely have negative short-term and long-term consequences.


How Can You Help?


Photo Source: The Telegraph

From a CBS news article, here are some steps we can take to help Australian wildlife during this crisis. It is important to remember that the wildlife being affected by this disaster need our help now, more than ever, and that this tragedy will affect biodiversity around the globe. 

Donate to WIRES, a wildlife rescue nonprofit that is rescuing and caring for thousands of sick, injured and orphaned native animals. Donate to Australia Zoo’s Wildlife Warriors. Donate to the World Wildlife Fund Australia, which is directing its efforts towards koala conservation. Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's GoFundMe, which has rescued and treated dozens of koalas suffering from severe burns. The hospital is using donations to install automatic drinking stations in burnt areas to help wildlife searching for water and to establish a wild koala breeding program to ensure the survival of the species. Donate to the RSPCA New South Wales, which is helping evacuate, rescue and treat pets and wildlife in threatened areas.


There are already several Australian endangered species that may be extinct from these fires. This is a true travesty for biodiversity. During this tragedy in Australia, take the time to spread awareness and educate peers, family, friends, and coworkers about the wildlife being affected in these fires. This is a prime example of why it is so imperative that we reduce our carbon footprint, and act to save species.


Written By: Bailey Higa


Sources
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-climate-change-global-warming-fires-ocean-life-crisis-a9266396.html
https://www.dw.com/en/oceans-play-role-in-australian-bushfires-drama-say-experts/a-51841347
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-tasmania/
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/12/fires-rage-across-australia-fears-grow-rare-species
https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/01/australia/australia-fires-explainer-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
https://oceana.org/blog/wildfires-aren%E2%80%99t-just-land-thing-smoke-and-ash-can-choke-ocean-too

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Comments

Metallica Rules! March 2 2020

Hello, thank you for the information here!
Is there any condition other than heat that oceanographers are considering as a consequence of the fires?
I have worked at a prominent lake, and Oregon wildfires created concern for the particles in the air. Surprisingly, not that they would fall in the lake and hurt it—but more from blocking out the sunlight for weeks at a time, and harming biological processes below the surface.
Maybe kelp and certain fish are suffering from that?

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