In this article, we will discuss Australian Bushfire (Miscellaneous Impacts Part-2). So, let’s get started.
Impact on Environment
Ash from the fires has landed in school playgrounds, backyards, and is being washed up on Australia’s beaches and into freshwater stores and water catchments. Drinking water catchments are typically forested areas, and so are vulnerable to bushfire pollution. Bushfire ash contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Increased nutrient concentrations can stimulate the growth of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria produce chemicals which may cause a range of water quality problems, including poor taste and odour, and sometimes toxic chemicals. During a blaze, plumes of smoke, ash and other debris catch on the wind and scatter across the landscape. Sometimes they blow over the ocean, where they add nutrients. When burned soils flow into streams and rivers, they fertilize water plants and algae. The extra nutrients can have benefits in moderation but too much can over-fertilize and cause excess algal growth. Algae absorb oxygen in the water in order to grow, and deplete dissolved oxygen when they die and decompose, which can asphyxiate fish and other marine life, with localized impacts to biodiversity. The same can be true in ocean environments, where smoke has shown to have a negative impact on marine ecosystems in several past incidents: haze from record wildfires in Indonesia killed coral reefs in the late 1990s, according to a study in Science, as iron-rich smoke billowed out over the coast and fertilized the water, causing a huge plankton bloom. The resulting so-called red tide asphyxiated coral reefs around the Mentawai Islands, off southwest Sumatra.
Impact on Agriculture
The bushfires have scorched pasture, destroyed livestock and razed vineyards, with regrowth and recovery likely to stretch water resources already challenged by drought. Reports indicate that the country’s dairy supply will likely be hit hardest, with Victoria and New South Wales—Australia’s key milk-producing states—suffering the greatest loss of farmland and infrastructure damage. Meat, wool, and honey output may also be impacted. About 13 per cent of the national sheep flock is in regions that have been significantly impacted and a further 17 per cent in regions partially impacted, according to Meat & Livestock Australia. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 2019 report on Climate Change and Land found that climate change has already affected food security and the agriculture industry due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events (high confidence). In some dryland areas, increased land surface air temperature and evapotranspiration and decreased precipitation amount, in interaction with climate variability and human activities, have contributed to desertification. These areas include Australia.